By Mubashir Hussain
Water is a pillar of human well-being and environmental stability, without water and access to it, there is no food security and no human dignity. The same amount of water is available on planet earth today as in the past but global warming makes water availability more uncertain and water-related risks are on the top of decision-making agendas yet, the demand and expectations for more water, more food and more of everything are soaring is global and regional concern as well as exist in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Water availability varies tremendously between countries, local areas and over time as a consequence of hydrological and natural circumstances. Access to water is a socio-economic and political challenge. Demographic trends, food preferences and consumer habits are strong drivers behind the expansion of agriculture and the current water predicament in entire Gilgit-Baltistan.
Food systems contribute significantly to global warming, which modifies rainfall patterns and evapotranspiration rates. Farmers experience more drastically than other groups the “inconvenient truth” of droughts, floods and uncertainties which threatens their livelihoods, current food supplies and those of our children. Rapid urbanization, expansion of industry and service sectors, and changed dietary preferences boost the demand for water and food in urban areas and rural areas as boosting the living standards of the society.
It is reported that during the flash floods of 2015-16 the surroundings of Gilgit-Baltistan are badly suffered due to heavy avalanches, mud flows and other factors closely related to climate change estimated to 80 major irrigation channels/Watercourses fully damaged in different localities in district Gilgit.
The impact of climate change is not considered local livelihoods in mountain valleys but the skilled and experienced wits will evaluate the variables in climate change in common sense from beginning to end of natural disasters and their magnitude of losses.
Summary of some surveyed Flood effected irrigation infrastructures.
|DAMAGED IRRIGATION CHANNELS
So it is the dire need of the era to gather the stake holders in decisions forums and formulate applied Water policies as per demand driven basis.
The issue is neglected in past by the stakeholder as minor thing but without a comprehensive Regional water policy we have expected to gradually loss in Biodiversity(Agriculture, Rangelands, Watersheds,)etc.
It is the dire need of the time to formulate and implementation of any Water related policy with following to minimize the future crisis of Water in Gilgit-Baltistan.
- Water and food for the impoverished- human dignity, socioeconomic progress.
- Human rights to household water, sanitation and food.
- Renewed partnerships between public and private sectors and civil society.
- Trade must be a key ally in water and food security.
- Water and the food system.
- Water resources, the environment and nutrition.
For people in Gilgit-Baltistan, perhaps the most immediate and serious impact is on water availability in undulated barren lands in agriculture fields and its timely availability at households in peak demand seasons.
According to a report by the World Resources Institute report, Pakistan is on track to become the most water-stressed country in the region, and 23rd in the world, by the year 2040. No person in Pakistan, whether from the north with its more than 5,000 glaciers, or from the south with its ‘hyper deserts’, will be immune to this.
To sensitize the public on water wastage it is critical that water usage is metered. Public outreach campaigns have worked elsewhere for helping put a value on water and decreasing the intensity of water used. Current irrigation practices are largely inefficient, and water productivity is lowest in the Indus basin’s irrigated agriculture. According to UNDP, the development of laser leveling technology and furrow-bed irrigation has resulted in saving 30pc of water and has led to an increase in productivity by 25pc in Punjab’s Okara district. Such a model should be replicate in Gilgit-Baltistan, with some smart methods, such as expanded drip irrigation farming systems and other water conservation techniques through communities. Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of water allocations worldwide. The consumptive use of water has resulted in a situation where an estimated 1.4 billion people live in river basins that are closed or closing. If environmental flow requirements are respected, there is insufficient water in these basins for additional irrigation or other uses. A temporal and gradual desiccation of rivers and a lowering of groundwater tables are a reality in parts of the world.The preventive adoptations could help full in miniization of negative climate change impacts.
The contributor works as Water Management Officer at the Water Management Department of Gilgit-Baltistan.