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    Overpopulation exerts pressure on water resources; time for construction of new dams 

    Overpopulation exerts pressure on water resources; time for construction of new dams 

    PESHAWAR (APP): Besides food and socioeconomic resources, the country’s overpopulation, which crossed the psychological barrier of 240 million in May this year, have started exerting pressure on water sector in the country.

    Highly vulnerable to climate change, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s low laying areas people of Nowshera, Peshawar and Charsadda were exposed to drink poor quality of water after the last year devastated floods that adversally affected the quality of groundwater in these districts.

    Inspite the fact that Pakistan had witnessed 22 high to very high floods during last 55 years, no attention was paid to construction of small, medium and large dams since long, which may result water scarcity, droughts and more flooding in future.

    “I regularly go to Pabbi tehsil by covering 10 kilometers distance  to bring clean drinking water for my family after the ground water of my village Mohib Banda badly affected by the last year floods was not fit for human consumption,” said Riazul Haq, former PST teacher of Nowshera district while talking to APP on Thursday.

    He said water of the nearby areas was very heavy and its drinking may cause vomiting and other waterborne diseases. Like, Riaz, most people were bringing clean drinking water from Pabbi, Nowshera and Peshawar due to poor quality of the ground water.

    Malik Riaz Khan, a senior children specialist at Govt Hospital Pabbi Nowshera said the use of contaminated water may caused diarrhea, cholera and others waterborne diseases that may prove fatal for weaker children.

    Besides stomach disorder and digestive problems, he said that use of polluted water often caused stunted growth and malnutrition in children and lactating mothers.

    Professor Dr Muhamnad Naeem of Economics Department, University of Swabi said Pakistan was ranked 14 out of 17 extremely high water risk

    countries in world due to overpopulation,  lack of water reservoirs and climate change induced weather patterns.

    Citing reports, he said our country’s population was expected to exceed 380 million by 2050 and the demand for water is likely to reach 274 million acre feet (MAF) as compared to 191 MAF supply of water by 2025.

    Dr Naeem said water availability had plummeted from 5,229 cubic meters per inhabitant in 1962 to just 1,187 in 2017 in Pakistan.

    He claimed that the country treats about one percent of wastewater, which was one of the lowest rates in globe and around 40 percent of water was lost due to spillage, seepage, side leakage, and bank cuttings along with irregular profiling of alignment of banks.

    Approximately, 97 percent of Pakistan’s freshwater is used by agriculture sector, he said, adding additionally 30 percent of land is expected to be waterlogged while 13 percent to saline in next few years if new dams were not constructed on priority basis in Pakistan.

    Tauheedul Haq, former Conservator of Forest said non construction of dams after Turbela had negatively impacted on water situation in the country.

    He said, about 46,000 dams had been constructed across the globe including 22,104 dams by China, 5,334 by India, but unfortunately, Pakistan had built only about 150 small and large dams since its inception.

    “Small dams could easily be constructed in KP in a short span of three years while big dams mostly require 10 to 15 years with more investment,” he said, adding Pakistan would require additional 76 MAF water by 2050 which was only possible by constructing small dams to meet the growing water demand.

    The National Water Policy (NWP) 2018 had revealed that Pakistan was heading towards a situation of water shortage due to lack of dams, which may lead to food insecurity for all living creatures in next few years.

    According to the policy, the per capita surface water availability had significantly declined from 5,260 cubic meters per year in Pakistan in 1951 to around 1,000 cubic meters in 2016. This quantity is likely to further drop to 860 cubic meters by 2025, marking the country’s transition from a water stressed to a water scarce.

    KP Irrigation Department spokesman told APP that 24 small dams with storage capacity of 75,008-acre feet (AF) having 49,523 acres cultivated command areas (CCA) were being constructed in the province.

    Pezu dam in Lakki Marwat, Khattak Bandhan dam in Kohat, and Makh Banda dam in Karak completed by federal government. Similarly, Ichar and Manchura dams at Mansehra, Chashma Akora Khel dam in Karak, Sarozai dam in Hangu, Sanam dam in Lower Dir, Bada dam and Ulta dam in Swabi constructed jointly by the federal and provincial governments.

    Seven medium dams including Bara dam in Khyber, Tank Zam in Tank, Shiekh Haider Zam, Chaudwan Zam, Daraban, and Kora Nullah in DIKhan and Larzan small dam in Tank with water storage capacity of 520,884 AF covering 171,748 CCA besides 31.5-megawatt power generation capacity were in design stage.

    The designs of seven medium dams including Barwasa and Sher Dara Swabi, Sumri Payan Kohat, Surkhaway Mardan, Naki Nowshera, Shaheed Banda Charssadda and Tora Warae Hangu having the total accumulative water storage capacity of 13,014 AF with 14,935 acres CCA were completed.

    As many as 37 small and medium dams were constructed in KP including 15 operated by KP government while 11 supervised by WAPDA and ten were constructed in merged districts having 0.1377 million-acre CCA and 0.3414 AF water storage capacity.

    Besides completion of 108MW Golen Gol dam in Chitral, the federal government had accelerated work on Mohmand dam of 800MW with 1.293 MAF water storage capacity that after completion would supplement/irrigate 160,000 acres land and about 18,237 acres of new land with annual benefits of Rs2.23 billion.

    Likewise, 300 million gallons water per day will also be provided to Peshawar for drinking purpose with benefits of Rs.957 million from Mohmand dam. 

    Peshawar, Charsadda and Nowshera would be saved from floods after construction of Mohmand dam having an annual benefits in terms of flood mitigation was estimated at Rs1.467 billion. It would produce 2.86 billion units of environment-friendly electricity to the National Grid every year with annual revenue of Rs. 45.76 billion while its overall annual benefits stand at Rs 51 billion.

    Hopefully, these mega projects after completion would help address water scarcity problems besides countering food security challenges in the wake of population explosion.

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