Indian Decade

Water, Water, Nowhere

The threats posed by global warming and climate change need to be tackled with much more urgency by governments worldwide than they have been thus far, despite the recent hoopla on the subject by the international community. One specific area where the governments have to put their act together is water. Irrespective of the authenticity or accuracy of international scientific research on the subject, one fact is indisputable: water is going to be more precious than gold or ‘black gold’ (petroleum) in the not too distant future. South Asia is set to face acute water shortage in the coming decades.

Water tables are constantly falling across the Indian sub-continent. As a result, there is a distinct possibility that India will face a water deficit of 50 percent in 2 decades. Pakistan’s case is no different. In fact, the Pakistani province of Sindh, that is projected to be with worst sufferer of water shortage from 2020 onwards, has already become restive on the water issue. And because of the Sindhis’ sensitivities about this topic and their perceived notion of India as ‘a water terrorist nation,’ Pakistan actually raised the ‘water issue’ during the February 25 India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks. The current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari hails from Sindh, the main constituency of his Pakistan People’s Party.

It is time that South Asian nations address the water problem collectively, with cohesion and convergence, rather than scoring political brownie points against one another. As South Asian economies are largely agrarian, they should use water for agricultural purposes sparingly and innovatively. By more scientific and judicious use of water for irrigation of crops, almost 80 percent of the projected water deficit can be plugged by canal-lining and such methods like ‘crop per drop.’ Israel, where agri-operations are in desert-like conditions, is a global pioneer in ‘crop per drop’ method. Another Asian country, Singapore, has unveiled plans to be a global hydro hub with government-private sector partnership with the objective of offering a range of value-added water services.