With climate conditions changing drastically in the last couple of decades, its impacts are becoming more prominent. Among its many impacts, water shortage is the most crucial one facing the world. With the rise of the earth’s temperature, rainfall has become a beast of extremes causing floods in some places and intense water shortage in others. Dry areas, in this case, are suffering the most with decreased rains and dry wells.
Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan, happens to be the driest region with scarce rains. The province has gone through severe droughts throughout the ages. The drought of the early 2000s killed hundreds of people and livestock. The ongoing drought has affected the lives of around 4.4 million people. The lack of an effort on the side of the government to preserve the rainwater in Balochistan may affect the lives of more people both economically and health-wise.
Since the province does not get enough rain, most of its population highly depend on underground water, which in times of droughts dry up. The rainwater in monsoon season goes to waste because there is no water management system put in place to preserve the rainwater. The ultimate solution proposed to tackle the issue of water in Balochistan was to build 100 dams in the province.
The 100 dam project was accommodated in the Public Sector Development Program in 2007-2008. The project is divided into three packages. Package 1 and 3 consists of 20 dams respectively, and package 2 includes the construction of 26 dams. Package 1 has successfully been completed in 2015. Packages 2 and 3 are yet to be completed.
Balochistan is a province that depends highly on agriculture and livestock. The recent droughts have also drastically affected the economy of the province resulting in mass migration to other parts of the country. It is important to notice that the recent drought is a result of scant rains in the past 10 years. Balochistan lacks a comprehensive water management system; the water from rain is wasted due to lack of dams. In response to the recent droughts in the province, the government announced the construction of at least two major water facilities. However, the level of this problem requires large-scale solutions.
Scarcity of drinking water poses a great threat to human health. With diminished flows in rivers and streams, small water reservoirs may become the hub of pollutants. Dry waterways can lead animals to look for water in areas where people live, developing closer contact between humans and animals, and other disease-carrying insects they host. The lack of drinking water increases the chances of gastrointestinal illnesses.
The consequences of water shortages are innumerable, and the recent budget for the fiscal year 2019-2020 left people hopeless about the completion of the package 2 and 3; as only 26 billion out of 416 billion has been allocated to development projects, and 1000 million to the 100 dams project. Considering the scarcity of water and the progress of the project, the amount allocated to the dam project is insufficient. Dams are thought to be the only solution to the issue of water scarcity in the province, and it is high time that concerned authorities realize the sensitivity of this situation and give serious consideration to the dam project.
Currently, Mirani Dam is the only big dam catering to the driest region in Balochistan. Since its completion, the dam has been providing clean water to Turbat and Gwadar. However, since most of the areas in the Makran region depend on underground water, in cases of drought they do not have an alternative water source. Thus, Mirani dam is not enough to cater to the whole region.
Now, with Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf(PTI) government in control, a huge responsibility stays on their shoulders. All the stakeholders need to sit together and reach a consensus on water issues in the country. The need for dams cannot be ignored and it is time for the government to put aside their differences and take this matter seriously. If immediate action is not taken the water crises may last until 2025 taking the lives of hundreds of people.