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Pakistan’s water mismanagement takes away 4 percent GDP every year

KARACHI: A World Bank report, prepared along with the local institutions, has said that Pakistan’s water mismanagement was causing 4 percent of GDP or $12 billion a year to the country.




The report states that while Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, is well-endowed with water, water availability per person is comparatively low. Water wastage is an issue and agricultural yields are low compared to most countries.


The Sindh Water Sector Improvement Project, Government of Sindh in collaboration of World Bank launched the World Bank Report on Pakistan: ‘Getting More from Water’ here on Wednesday. 


Although climate change and trans-boundary issues are a significant hindrance for Pakistan’s water sector, the greatest challenges and opportunities are internal, not external, to Pakistan.


Report stresses over Pakistan water mismanagement. According to this analysis, improving water-use efficiency and productivity, delivery of water services in cities and in irrigation, and addressing environmental sustainability are the most pressing needs.


While irrigation dominates water use in the country, the four major crops (rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton) that use 80 percent of water contribute only five percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Poor water management is conservatively estimated to cost 4 percent of GDP or around $12 billion per year. These costs are dominated by inadequate domestic water supply and sanitation, but also include the costs of floods and droughts.


Poor sanitation and a lack of waste-water treatment cause water-borne diseases that kill 40,000 children each year. Rivers, lakes and the extensive Indus Delta are severely degraded undermining important ecosystem services.


Irrigation water use can increase to meet growing food demands if efficiency improvements are made. Changes in diet with increasing wealth will have significant impacts on commodity demands and crop choices. Agricultural subsidies must be reformed to reflect real value of commodity exports and of water, said the report.  


Without reform, irrigation water use will limit water access by industry and services sectors, constraining economic growth. Attention must be given to increasing flows below Kotri Barrage both for the health of the delta and for Karachi water supply.


The session was chaired by Engr. Ashfaque Ahmed Memon, Special Assistant to Chief Minister Sindh on Irrigation while panelists included Dr Naeem Zafar, Chief Economist, Planning & Development Department, Government of Sindh, Dr Bakhshal Khan Lashari, Director, Centre for Advance Studies on Water, Mehran University Jamshoro, Kabool Muhammad Khatian, Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, Syed Mahmood Nawaz Shah, Sindh Abadgar Board, Mahmood Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN and Ms Simi Kamal, Founder Hissar Foundation, Think Tank on Water Issues.


Dr Fateh Marri, Project Coordinator, WSIP, P&D Department in his opening remarks said that water is critical for the economy, environment and society in Pakistan, therefore we, together; have to address the issues and challenges to this sector.


He further said that the provincial government is in process of formulating Sindh water policy which is expected to contribute to the sustainable growth of the economy of Sindh and Pakistan.


It will cover the matters of surface and ground water, water use efficiency and distribution, water quality and matters of competing uses of various sectors including irrigation, industries, municipalities and environment, he said. The policy will also address the aspects of water pricing and taxation.




Dr William Young, author of the report said that new dams can help improve water security but will not address the most pressing water problems that Pakistan faces. He further added that “Irrigation systems need modernizing; hydromet systems should be expanded; and urban water infrastructure, especially for waste-water, requires major investment. The National Water Policy provides a sound basis for reform, but provincial water policies need much attention and the underpinning legal framework is incomplete and needs strengthening,”


Ashfaq Memon, Advisior to Chief Minister said that “Sindh province which is at tail end of River Indus, face chronic water deficits and suffer frequently from droughts. Strategies for demand reduction should include the better land use management, diversification of the water supply sources, rainwater harvesting, artificial recharge and desalinization.”


The report was prepared by the World Bank with external contributions from local and international water experts, including the International Water Management Institute and the International Food Policy Research Institute.​

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