‘Pakistan faces a famine’

April 25th, 2008 - 7:46 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, April 25 (IANS) Pakistan is “fast” running out of water and power and faces a famine in which the people will go “real hungry” in the not too distant future, a newspaper editorial said Friday. “The situation could not be clearer, or more desperate. Pakistan is running out of water and power - fast,” The News said in an editorial headlined “Dam foolery”.

“Inexorable logic tells us that a shortage of water leads to a shortage of locally produced staple requirements such as wheat. It is projected (by the government’s own statisticians) that Pakistan will have a wheat deficit of 12 million tonnes per annum by 2012-13 - or 31 per cent of the projected target,” the editorial pointed out.

“Try to imagine those figures in human terms. People are going to go hungry. Not ‘possibly’ hungry, or ‘maybe’ hungry, but ‘real’ hungry. Famine lurks in the middle-distance, and many may die.

“Either we put pettifogging and pernicious rivalries and narrow political advancements on hold and start building dams and their associated hydro-electric works, or Pakistan is within sight of beginning to starve to death,” the editorial warned.

“The poor will starve and die first. The rich will last a little longer and fewer of them will die, but everybody is going to feel the pinch of hunger one way or another,” it added.

According to the newspaper, “nothing has been done to improve or increase either power productivity or water resources for almost a decade. Poor governance and provincial rivalry have contributed to the chronically under-resourced position we find ourselves in today.

“It is worth-stating in the starkest possible terms the precise nature of the disaster that successive governments have foisted upon the populace - and which the new government looks set to perpetuate unless it takes immediate and radical steps which clear the way for dam building and power generation,” the editorial maintained.

Approximately 35 million acres of arable land are irrigated by canals and tube wells. To serve them, dams were constructed at Chashma, Mangla and Tarbela. Since the completion of the Tarbela dam in 1976 no new capacity has been added despite astronomical growth in population.

This apart, the gross capacity of the three dams has decreased as a result of sedimentation, a process which will continue and it is estimated that the gross storage loss will reach 6.22 MAF (million acre feet) by 2012.

Per-capita surface-water availability for irrigation was 5,260 cubic metres per year in 1951 and had reduced to 1,100 cubic metres per year in 2006. The minimum per capita water requirement to avoid being a water-scare nation is 1,000 cubic metres per year.

“Thus, by 2012, less than four years hence, Pakistan is going to be as short of water as it is of power today,” The News said.

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