Essay on “Water Crisis in Pakistan and its Remedies” for CSS, PMS, Judiciary Examinations

This is an essay on “Water Crisis in Pakistan and its Remedies” for CSS, PMS, and Judiciary Examinations. Pakistan’s big arguably, biggest — problem is water scarcity. The country faces acute water scarcity by 2025 and will be the most water-stressed country in South Asia within two decades. Almost 30 million Pakistanis have no access to clean water. Find below the complete Essay on the water crisis in Pakistan and its remedies.


World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) report

Causes of the water crisis

  • No dams construction
  • Dispute between the provinces
  • Demands of Sindh
  • Punjab’s role
  • Lack of proper water management
  • Climate change
  • Mismanagement of resource

Indian propaganda since 1947

  • Standstill Agreement
  • Role of the president of the World Bank
  • Indus Basin Treaty 1960
  • Wullar Barrage (The Tulbal Navigation Lock)
  • Kishanganga Project
  • Baghlihar Dam

Sources of Water

  • Indus River
  • Closed basin Kharan desert
  • Makran coastal basin
  • Water reservoirs/ capacities
  • Terbela dam reservoir
  • Mangla dam reservoir
  • Chashma barrage reservoir
  • Utilization of water
  • Irrigation
  • Power generation
  • Drinking
  • Industry

Water and Agriculture

Impact on Economy

Recommendations for Water Crisis

  • Bhasha dam
  • Kalabagh dam
  • Thal reservoir
  • Raised Mangla dam
  • Mirani dam
  • Gomalzam dam
  • Water management
  • Use of alternative sources of energy


Essay on “Water Crisis in Pakistan and its Remedies” for CSS, PMS, Judiciary Examinations

According to the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan is one of the most “water-stressed” countries in the world; it is likely to face an acute water shortage over the next five years due to lack of water availability for irrigation, industry and human consumption. A WB report states that the water supply in Pakistan has fallen from 5,000 cubic meters per capita to 1,000 cubic meters in 2010, and is likely to further reduce to 800 cubic meters per capita by 2020. Contributory factors consist of an increase in population, climate change, lack of a solid vision to construct water reservoirs, and misplaced use of Jhelum and Chenab rivers by India under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) of 1960 that has resulted in reduced flow of water to Pakistan.

The water crisis has two dimensions. First is the distribution of water among the four provinces, particularly between Punjab and Sindh. The second is between Pakistan and India arising because of utilizing water from the Chenab and Jhelum rivers. The first problem basically arises from the second one.

India got the right to fully utilize water from the three eastern rivers; Ravi, Bias, and Sutlej, while Pakistan was to utilize water from the three western rivers; Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). India was also permitted limited irrigation of 1,343 million acres (2.85 MAF) from western rivers. Water for Pakistan was not quantified. However, it is implied in the treaty that India is not to exceed the specified limit for water utilization. If India continues with its current strategy of building dams on the Chenab and Jhelum rivers, then there would be serious implications for Pakistan’s agriculture and national security. It would aggravate the already strained relationship between the two countries, which is due to the unresolved Kashmir issue.

A very strong perception exists in Pakistan that India in its quest to utilize water from Chenab and Jhelum rivers and is not fulfilling its obligations under the IWT. It wants to constrict the flow of water to Pakistan. This strategy has a hidden political agenda to create scarcity of irrigation water that would hurt Pakistan’s economy and agriculture sector in between 10-15 years. The national interests of both countries would be best served if India honored its comn1ittnents under the IWT. But, is India ready to address Pakistan’s concerns or wants to safeguard its own interests by violating the IWT that could lead to worsening of relations between the two countries?

The Water Crisis at the National Level Exists due to the following reasons:

  1.  In the past, the public leadership did not succeed to develop a consensus on the construction of huge water reservoirs, particularly the Kalabagh dam that could have addressed many of the power and water problems that are being faced today.
  2. Provinces are in dispute over their respective share of water under the IWT, with particular reference to utilizing water for Kharif and Rabi seasons through link canals managed by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa). Irsa has stopped satisfying Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan provinces over the distribution of irrigation water for the current Rabi season because of a 34.0 percent shortage of water, primarily due to the construction of the Baglihar dam on Chenab. Water supply would be further constricted because of the planned construction of the Basrur multipower project, Siwalkot dam, and Pakot Dul dam on Chenab river by India. Unless resolved it would continue to be a recurring problem.
  3. The Sindh Assembly has demanded scrapping the Hydropower project on the Chashma Jhelum link canal, a key project for the Punjab government. There is a strong perception in Sindl1 that the project would constrict the flow of water to the province and hurt its agriculture as well.
  4. Punjab 1s accused of stealing 16,000 cusecs of water between Taunsa and Guddu, from 2nd to 4th Feb 2010. The Punjab government claims that system losses are to blame for the water that has disappeared.
  5. Because of an absence of proper water management essentially at the secondary canal level, water crisis, particularly at the lower parts of these canals, is very evident. Coupled with flood irrigation, either irrigation by flooding basins or using the old Punchoo system, the water crisis keeps on increasing its intensity day by day. IRSA has no telemetry system and we cannot
    decide to distribute water by going beyond letter sense and include the spirit of the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991, we do not see an end to this water crisis in Pakistan.

As far as the scarcity of water in Pakistan is concerned, apparently, it has also to do with:

1. Climatic changes

2. Negligence and mismanagement of water resources by successive governments in Pakistan

Global warming has led to the melting of the Himalayan glaciers and consequent depletion in the flow of water into the Indus River system. The trend is likely to continue with rising temperatures. It is not that only the agricultural sector, the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, is suffering; due to depleting water supply, there is reduced power generation from the hydroelectric plants, having a devastating impact on the country’s industries too. Pakistan has no control over nature. However, it can improve the management of water resources. Pakistan needs to address the following problems on an urgent basis:

  1. The silting of dams and barrages is a continuous process. Due to heavy sediments carried by the rivers, Tarbela, Mangla and Chasma Dams have lost nearly 25% of their capacity.
  2. An estimated 40% of the water that runs through canals is lost because of seepage. The reason is the canal beds and banks are unlined, poorly lined, or porous.
  3. Traditional and antiquated agricultural techniques lead to excessive loss of water.
  4. While water-intensive varieties of crops, like sugarcane and rice, are cultivated. Optimum crop rotation is imperative but is not done effectively.

On 2 June 2008, Pakistan’s National Economic Council met under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and approved the development strategy based on the Medium Term Development Framework 2005-10. The water sector part of the overall strategy concentrates on water augmentation, water conservation, and effective use of water. It calls for the development of additional medium and large-size reservoirs with priority.

The water storages to be completed, by 2016 include Akhori Dam, Basha-Diamer Dam, Kalabagh Dam, and Munda Dam. Simultaneously the ongoing projects such as raising the structures of Mangla Dam, Gomal Dam, Satpra Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam, and Sabakzai Dam are also to be the top priority. The Medium-Term Development Framework 2005-10 also envisages a number of other measures, including reclamation of land from waterlogging and salinity, improvement of watercourses and ground-water management, etc.

Last year, 20 different UN bodies had warned; “Water is linked to the crisis of climate change, energy and food supplies and prices, and troubled financial markets. Unless their links with water are addressed and water crises around the world are resolved, these other crises may intensify and local water crises may worsen, converging into a global water crisis and leading to political insecurity and conflict at various levels”.

In a recent report, the United Nations has estimated that Pakistan’s water supply has dropped from about 5,000 cubic meters per person in the 1950s to about 1,420 cubic meters. Any further drop would seriously jeopardize economic growth and would be a health hazard. Notwithstanding Indus Basin Treaty, The need for effective international cooperation among riparian countries is greater now than ever before. The demand for water in all countries is escalating and increasingly the harmful effects of activities in upstream countries are being observed. Over a third of the 200 international river basins, are not covered, by an international agreement; only some 30, including Pakistan and India, have co-operative institutional arrangements.

Clearly, efforts are needed to formulate and reach an agreement on an international “code of conduct” or convention in the utilization of shared water basins so that the water needs of some countries are not undermined by irresponsible utilization of water resources by others. Improved international co-operation is also necessary regarding the transfer of knowledge and technology in the water resources field. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, 1998, sets the standard for all agreements involving the shared use of trans boundary water, resources.

It specifically establishes the dual criteria of “equitable and reasonable utilization”‘ of the water resources and the need to “exchange data and consult on the possible effects of planned measures on the condition” of the water resource. The U.N. Convention provides the overall framework for Transboundary water sharing.

The partition of the South Asian Subcontinent on 14 August 1947 into the dominions of India and Pakistan gave birth to a host of problems, including that of the sharing of waters of the mighty Indus River System. The issue was of concern to Pakistan because the headworks of the rivers that irrigated Pakistan’s Punjab province mostly went to the Indian side. On 30 December 1947, Pakistan and India concluded a ‘Standstill Agreement’ for a three-month period under which Pakistan continued to receive water supply from the headworks of Madhopur on River Ravi and Ferozepur on River Sutlej, the two tributaries of River Indus. As the interim arrangement ended on 31 March 1948, the next day the Government of Indian Punjab stopped the supply of water to Pakistan from the Madhopur headwork, affecting, according to one estimate, 5.5% of Pakistan’s irrigated area.

Pakistan raised the issue at the Inter-Dominion Conference held on 3-4 May 1948. India dismissed Pakistan’s claim over water, from the headworks on its side as a matter of right but agreed to release water as a provisional arrangement. It was thus abundantly clear that slowly and gradually the quantity of water would be reduced. In 1951, David Lilienthal, who had formerly served as Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and as Chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission, undertook a research tour of Pakistan and India for writing a series of articles. In one of his articles, he opined that it would be very beneficial for the region if the two countries cooperated to jointly develop and operate the Indus Basin river system. He further suggested that the World Bank might play its role in bringing India and Pakistan to agree on some plan to develop the Indus river system for mutual benefit.

President of the World Bank, Eugene Black, picked up the idea and offered his good offices to resolve the issue of water sharing between India and Pakistan. The two neighbors welcomed the initiative and after tough bargaining during the protracted negotiations that spread, over nine years arrived at the contours of the agreement. Broad parameters thus settled the work of drafting began. Finally, m September 1960, President of Pakistan Field Marshall Mohammad Ayub Khan and Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru signed the Indus Water Treaty in Karachi.

Following are the provisions of the Indus Basin Treaty 1960

  1. Pakistan surrendered three eastern rivers, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas to India with some minor rights to Pakistan.
  2. Largely three western rivers namely Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab remained with Pakistan.
  3. India was allowed to use water from the western rivers for irrigation of 642,000 acres of land that were already being irrigated from these rivers along with an entitlement to further irrigate 701,000 acres for crops.
  4. India was also given specified entitlement for ‘other’ storage, including, power and flood storage i.e., storage for non-consumptive purposes.
  5. Pakistan was to meet the requirements of its eastern river canals from the western rivers by
    constructing replacement works.
  6. Both parties are bound to. regularly exchange flow data of rivers, canals, and streams.
  7. A Permanent Indus Water Commission, with one Commissioner from each side, was to be set
    up to resolve issues.
  8. The procedures were set out for settlement of ‘questions’ ‘differences’ and ‘disputes’, bilaterally and through neutral experts and International Court of Arbitration as the case might be.

Since Pakistan required considerable time to build the necessary infrastructure to divert water from western rivers to eastern rivers and their canals on its side, India was to allow the ‘historic withdrawals’ on the part of Pakistan during the transitory period. According to the Treaty, two dams (Mangla on River Jhelum and Tarbela on River Indus) were to be built It also envisaged five barrages Maraia and Qadirabad on River Chenab, Sidhnai on River Ravi, Rasul on River Jhelum, Chashma on River Indus, and Mailsi on River Sutlej. Besides, one siphon and seven link canals (Rasul-Qadirabad on Rivers Jhelum-Chenab, Qadirabad-Balloki on Rivers Chenab-Ravi, Balloki-Suleimanki II and Sidhnai-Mailsi on Rivers Ravi-Sutlej, Chashma-Jhelum on Rivers Indus-Jhelum and Trimmu-Sidhnai on Rivers Indus-Ravi), to be constructed in Pakistan.

To meet the financial cost, India was to pay a fixed amount of US $ 62.060 million over a period of ten years. An international consortium pledged the US $ 900 million. The World Bank was to administer the Indus Basin, Development Fund. The Indus Basin Project was completed despite all hurdles those included opposition and reservations from many quarters in Pakistan who felt that Pakistan’s rights as a lower riparian state had been compromised. This amounted to a successful resolution of a major dispute over the world’s largest, contiguous irrigation system with a command area of about 20 million hectares.

Although the Indus Water Treaty has been a remarkable success story, lately some projects are undertaken by India in the Occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir from where the western rivers flow into Pakistan have become major irritants and raised serious concerns in Pakistan:

India has embarked upon the construction of a huge network of water storage facilities, the national river linking project at an estimated cost of $120 bn likely to be completed by 2016. It includes the construction of the Basrur multi-power project, Siwalkot dam, and Pakot Dul dam on Chenab, in addition to the already constructed Baglihar dam. In 1985, India started construction of a barrage known as ‘Wullar Barrage (The Tulbal Navigation Lock)’ some 439 feet long and with a lock at the mouth of Wullar Lake, the largest freshwater Lake in Indian occupied, disputed, and held territory.

Purportedly but not so innocently, the stated purpose of the barrage was to make possible navigation in a 22 km stretch between the towns of Sopore and Baramula, during the lean winter season by regulating the flow of the River Jhelum. Pakistan raised objections to this project and the construction work halted in 1987. Pakistan contends that India cannot store water in excess of 0.01 MAF as ‘incidental storage’ on River Jhelum. Pakistan also apprehends that the Wullar Barrage may cause damage to its own project of linking Jhelum and Chenab with the Upper Bari Doab Canal. One important concern of Pakistan, which is extraneous to the Indus Water Treaty but squarely a security issue, is that in case of war between the two countries, India would take advantage of its ability to control the flow of water and make the crossing of the river easy or difficult according to strategic and tactical military requirement.

India, as usual, but erroneously contends that the Wullar Barrage would regulate the flow of water into Jhelum and control the floods. It would not reduce the overall quantum of water flow rather increase it during the lean winter season. All fair weather pretension and an obvious ruse, to get away with an extremely hurtful project to Pakistan. The project’s impact, India asserts, would be beneficial to Mangla Dam in power generation and to Pakistan’s triple canal system due to the regulated flow of water. The matter remains unresolved.

Outrageously on the Kishanganga Project, the Indians hawk on the premise that it will ostensibly bring water from River Kishanganga to Wullar Lake, where a hydroelectric power station is proposed. The project envisages the construction of a channel and a tunnel for this purpose. Simultaneously to build a dam, near the place where River Kishanganga crosses the Line of Control to enter Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where it is known as Neelum.

Here Pakistan plans to construct a 969 MW-capacity Neelum-Jhelum Power Plant with Chinese assistance. The Pakistani project is to going to be completed in 2017, due to a delay in construction work. Pakistan is genuinely concerned and fears that the Kishanganga Project would lead to a shortfall of water flow into Neelum, reducing its power generation by an estimated 9%. The Indus Water Treaty does not bar any party from storing water for power generation as per entitlement.

However, there is the principle of prior appropriation enshrined in the Treaty. India intends to complete the Kishanganga Project by 2016 to avail the opportunity of diverting K.ishanganga’a water to Wullar Lake before Pakistan is able to invoke the provision of prior appropriation. India also claims that Pakistan need not worry because the water diverted by the l<ishanganga Project would reach Pakistan through River Jhelum, no matter Neelum-Jhelum project suffers.

In 1999, India began construction work of 470-feet high, 317 meters wide Baghlihar Dam, also known as Baghlihar Hydroelectric Power Project, oh River Chenab in Doda District of Indian occupied Kashmir. Although India called it a run-of-the-river project, the dam was to have a ‘pond age’ of 15 million cubics! Deters with submerged gated spillways.

Pakistan raised objection to the project design on the ground that the submerged gate ‘spillways would enable India to increase the storage capacity of the reservoir and, if India desired, to halt the supply of water to Pakistan for more than three weeks during the winter season. Pakistan fears that it would lose between 7000 to 8000 cusecs of water per day for Rabi crops. Pakistan also sensed the danger of inundation of the area above Maraia Head Works, if India released water simultaneously from Dulhasti, Baghlihar, and Sala! Darns into River Chenab. Pakistan viewed the Baghlihar Project as another security risk, in times of tension or war, as India would be able to control the flow of water facilitating or hampering the movement of Indian/Pakistani troops according to its requirement.

After the Indus Water Commission failed to resolve the Baghlihar Dam issue, the matter was referred to the World Bank which acknowledged that the issue amounted to a ‘difference’ and appointed Professor Raymond Lafitte, an engineer from Switzerland, as the neutral expert to decide the matter. On 12 February 2007, Lafitte gave his verdict directing India to reduce the capacity of pond age by 13.5% and the height of the Dams’ structure by 1.5 meters. He also called for raising power intake tunnels by 3 meters to reduce flow-control capability. Pakistan had reservations about the verdict but both India and Pakistan agreed to abide by it. The matter, it appears, stands closed.

It is heartening to see that during its recent visit to Pakistan to discuss Indus Water issues, the Indian delegation conceded that all “water disputes must be resolved within an agreed timeframe.” Pakistan’s Indus Commissioner Syed Jamaal Ali Shah told the Indian delegation that a reduction in supplies was jeopardizing the water transfer operation to the eastern part of Pakistan. He also conveyed the message that Pakistan wanted India to take necessary steps if deforestation and environmental impact affected the river flow on its side.

Now dams will be Discussed in detail.

World’s largest earth and rock-filled dam were built at Terbela on river Indus in 1976 with a gross capacity of 11.62 maf and a live storage capacity of 9.68 maf. With the passage of time, due to silting, 24.6% of the storage has been lost and now it has a live storage of 7.295 maf.

Mangla reservoir is the second major storage of Pakistan. It was built in 1967 on river Jhelum with a gross capacity of 5.882 maf and live storage of 5.41 maf. Again due to siltation it has lost 13.2% of its storage and presently can store 4.636 MAF of water.

Chashma barrage is situated on river Indus and was built in 1972 with a gross storage of0.870 maf and live storage of O.717 maf. It has also reduced its storage capacity by 39.3% and is left with a storage capacity of0.435 maf.

In Pakistan, we utilize the water available to us for different purposes. The basic utilization is for irrigation and then used for power generation, drinking, and also provided to some Industries.

Whereas impact on the economy is concerned, according to the estimates of the federal government, the agriculture sector would suffer a loss of about Rs. 90 billion because of drought. Since agriculture has remained a major source of shouldering the already crippled economy, it has a vital role to play particularly in terms of food security and employment of the ever-burgeoning population of the country. It contributes around 35 % to the GNP and employs about 44% of the labor force. It also contributes 65% of our export earnings. The adverse effects of water shortage on agriculture would have a spiraling effect on the prevailing level of poverty.

  1.  Less water means less agricultural yields and to fulfill the food requirements of the nation, we will be dependent on other countries.
  2. Raising livestock is the main source of livelihood in rural areas. It is also an important economic activity, which contributes 9.7% of GDP, which will be affected due to a shortage of water.
  3. Orchards of Pakistan bring home a healthy amount of foreign exchange, which can be affected due to water shortage.
  4. Due to less production of main crops, which are wheat, cotton, sugar cane, and rice, the Industries related to them will suffer adversely.
  5. Then due to drought and more dependency on groundwater for irrigation, the water table will go down, and this will cause water constraints to the population.
  6. Less agricultural outputs will compel people to head towards urban areas for jobs, which will increase unemployment further.
  7. The distribution of water is controlled from the center by IRSA (Indus river system authority) as per the 1991 agreement between the provinces. Now the shortage of water will cause disputes between the provinces, which may cause harm to the national integrity.

So for overcoming the water crisis, following steps are recommended:

The national water strategy must be based upon two essential elements covering

1. Water developments

2. Water management

In water development, the following dams should start immediately;-

Bhasha dam would be located 200 miles upstream of Terbela on river Indus. its gross storage capacity would be 7.3 maf and live storage 5.7 maf. Its power generation capacity would be 3360 mw.

Kalabagh dam site is located 132 miles downstream of Terbela. Its gross storage would be 6.1 maf. It would have a power generation of 3600 mw.

That reservoir would be located on the right bank of Chashma – Jhelum link canal, along the western bank of river Jhelum. Its reservoir would have a gross capacity of 2.3 maf.

In this, the present Mangla dam would be further raised by 40 ft and thus increasing its gross capacity to 9.5 maf. In addition, its power generation capacity would be increased by 15%.

Mirani dam is located on Dasht River about 48 km of Turbat town in Mekran division. Its main objective is to provide water for irrigation. Its gross storage is 0.30 maf.

Gomalzam dam is located at Khajori Kach on Gomal River in South Waziristan, about 75 miles from Dera Ismail Khan. Its main objective will be to irrigate 132000 acres of land, power generation of 17.4 mw, and flood control.

From these projects, we shall be able to store an additional 20maf of water. Managing water resources is the need of time, and we in Pakistan are already short of water, mnst chalk out a strategy. Following are recommended in this regard:-

Presently the losses occur due to seepage, infiltration, and leakages, etc. seepage results in waterlogging, and these losses can be reduced or eliminated by lining the canals.

In addition, people should be educated to conserve water by cooperation”: Furthermore government should make laws on water conservation, like many western countries.

The second-largest contribution to the total water available comes from groundwater sources. This source has been exploited and very well used by public and private tube wells. It can still provide over nine maf of water. This source can be exploited and judiciously used for irrigation purposes. However in some areas, groundwater is rapidly depleting due to excessive pumpage, authorities should take control in such areas to save them from depleting.

Efforts would be made to convert the present rotation-based irrigation system to a demand-oriented system. The modem irrigation techniques, that is trickling, sprinkling, etc, have the potential to improve water distribution and its utilization.

Authorities should take appropriate steps to curb the illegal extraction of water and ensure its equitable distribution.

Presently irrigation department has failed to stop the illegal theft and extraction; thus irrigation distribution system needs to be privatized through·water user associations.

In addition, water, nowadays is supplied to farmers at a very negligible cost and that is why they do not treat water as a precious resource; therefore there is a need to increase the water prices to make irrigators realize the importance of this asset.

Farmer’s organizations, water user associations, and the private sector must be involved in the construction, operation, and maintenance of i.e irrigation system. Such associations are conceived as a mechanism for creating a cooperative framework for the improvement of watercourses.


The problems faced by the water sector in the country are many, acute and serious and it is also known that we can generate about 83 maf of more water. Therefore, building more reservoirs and an effective management strategy are the needs of the time. Also, implementation of the recommendations will enable the country to ·meet the challenges, and achieve the objectives of integrated, efficient, environmentally and financially sustainable development and management of limited water resources. At the same time, it will enable us to utilize every drop of our water for our bright future.

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