WASHINGTON: “Every minute a child dies of a water-related disease” somewhere in the world, warns a report published by the International Monetary Fund.
The report by three senior IMF staffers, and published in the latest issue of its Finance and Development magazine, says that people throughout the world face rising constraints on their ability to obtain water in a usable form, when and where it is needed.
Globally, 1.2 billion people, or one in six, live in areas with inadequate water supplies and approximately one in nine lacks access to safe drinking water.
The report depicts Pakistan as one of the most water-stressed countries in the world despite an abundant endowment.
It notes that crops in Pakistan are predominantly irrigated, and agriculture consumes about 95 per cent of annual available surface water.
“Yet agriculture is largely untaxed, even though it accounts for 20 per cent of GDP and employs 40 per cent of the population”.
The report points out that irrigation charges in Pakistan are based on land area rather than actual water consumption, “which has impeded the adoption of more efficient technology and less-water-intensive crops.”
According to this report, a rising tide of demand for water is putting increasing pressure on water resources in many countries. The global stock of fresh water available for human use is limited and unevenly distributed; more than 60 pct of it is found in just 10 countries.
On a per capita basis, fresh water available in the Middle East and North Africa region is only a tiny fraction of that in Latin America.
Lack of access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation increases the prevalence of disease, worsens health and nutrition outcomes, and lowers women’s participation in education and income-generating activities, as they are sent to fetch water.
A related World Bank report warns that the Indus system is rapidly becoming a “closed” basin in which all of the available renewable resources are already allocated for use, with India (36pc ) and Pakistan (63pc) representing almost all of the demand on the river’s water resources.
In recent decades, irrigated agriculture in the Indus Basin has moved towards conjunctive use of surface and groundwater.
Low irrigation efficiency — in Pakistan losses are 40 pc of diversions — poor drainage and extensive use of nitrate, herbicide and pesticide to promote crop growth have led to surface and groundwater deterioration and soil salinisation.
The report warns that reservoir siltation poses water security challenges for both India and Pakistan and is reducing already limited storage capacity.
For Pakistan, it is estimated that an average of 25 pc of the live storage capacity of small dams in the basin has been lost as a result of sedimentation.
The heavily quartz laden sands also affect hydropower infrastructure damaging turbines and tunnel works and can have a negative impact on Pakistan’s efforts to substantially increase hydropower generation to meet its chronic energy shortage.