the water crisis in alochistan has reached a level where rain is needed everywhere, all the time. Unfortunately, annual rainfall is scanty. On the other hand, there is little preparation for it. Whenever it rains, flood damage affects lives and livelihoods, especially in agriculture. All of this was on display last week when it rained in most parts of Balochistan.
In Pishin district, the rain storm prompted a number of families to migrate to higher open spots. Water entered living quarters in many areas. The inhabitants of the village of Malakyar had to flee their homes during the night. Many families migrated to urban areas and began to live with their relatives in the host towns.
A few weeks ago, videos of some female students at Loralai Medical College went viral on social media. They were carrying pots of water. They traveled great distances from their inns and fetched water for themselves. The students were deprived of drinking water. For a long time, the people of Gwadar did not have enough water. On several occasions, they were forced to organize street demonstrations.
Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, is overcrowded. Families from fairly remote areas (both Pashtun and Baloch) also reside in the capital. This is mainly because, unlike their ancestral villages, their children have access to basic health care and schools. The large population needs water. However, the water supply is not sufficient. Tanker trucks charge around 10,000 rupees per filling. Over the years, a whole water economy has developed in the city.
In Killa Saifullah, agriculture was the most affected by the heavy rains. Many shepherds lost their cattle on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha. Some said they had to watch helplessly as their animals drowned. The already marginalized segment of society has been hit hard economically. Similar stories have been pouring in from other parts of the province. However, it cannot be said that all regions of the province received adequate media coverage.
The shortage of drinking water is a serious problem. It causes poverty, illiteracy, stunting and security problems. The population of Baluchistan is smaller than that of the city of Lahore, but it is dispersed over 48% of the land area of the country.
Many people in Balochistan do not have clean water to drink. The water table has dropped nearly a thousand feet in recent years. The installation of solar-powered tube wells, promoted by some politicians, brings only temporary relief.
When it rains, the worries of many citizens multiply. Rural areas are the most affected due to poor building design and construction.
The shortage of drinking water is a very serious problem. It causes poverty, illiteracy, stunting and security problems. The population of Balochistan, smaller than that of the city of Lahore, is dispersed over 48% of the country’s area.
Government policies aimed at addressing these issues have not proven compatible with the realities on the ground. Balochistan does not have enough dams and reservoirs to store rainwater. Most rainwater is wasted. It flows quickly and joins the sea, becoming unfit for consumption and other uses.
The federal and provincial governments have the opportunity to discuss the issue with the Chinese under the aegis of CPEC. The question must be a priority. Authorities should declare a water emergency. Using clean water to wash cars etc should be banned.
Balochistan is endowed with minerals and natural resources. It should solve its water problem by forcing mining companies to supply water to host communities.
The provincial government should also develop a water exchange system with other provinces. In exchange for the water received, Balochistan can supply grapes, apples, melons and watermelons to the rest of the country.
Balochistan is adjacent to Afghanistan which has enough water. The government should analyze this option wisely and reach an appropriate agreement with the Afghan government.
The Karez system in Balochistan has disappeared. Restoring this system is not viable. A better alternative is small dams to store rainwater.
In the near future, the construction and operation of such dams will probably be the best indicator of the health of the economy. It will also be a good indicator of the sincerity of politicians.
The author is a civil engineer. He tweets @DawoodKhanHere. He can be contacted at [email protected]