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Water Shortage Plagues Pakistan Despite Historic Flooding

  • Dave DeForest

Recent flooding in Pakistan has given that nation the appearance of being inundated by water. But, according to experts, in reality, there is a growing shortage of usable water in the country.

Many areas of Pakistan get too little rain for most of the year. Much of the nation’s rain falls in the north of the country and mostly during the summer monsoon season.

In recent years, the amount of water available per person in Pakistan has fallen dramatically as the population has increased -- a situation described by Asia expert Michael Kugelman as “precarious.”

Author and journalist Steven Solomon outlines the dire implications of water shortages around the world in his book, Water, the Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization.

The water shortage in Pakistan, India and other Asian nations, Solomon says, is related to a rapidly increasing population and inefficient water management practices.

He points out that the 20th Century saw water use grow twice as fast as the populations in these nations. “It’s continuing in much of the developing world at that rate" he adds.

“There probably is enough water for India, for Pakistan, and…most of the other countries of the world [would] be able to get by and prosper with the existing water resources they have if they managed them differently,” he said. He called the water crisis fundamentally a problem of management and political organization.

Solomon said Pakistan and India risk becoming food importing rather that food exporting nations. And that could have an impact well beyond those countries' borders.

“To me, the greatest risk is not is not water wars, but failed states,” he said. “States that cannot produce enough food, for example, have failed throughout history and have become weak and it is in those weak periods that you see that they create regional instability; terrorism has emanated from those states,” he added.

He said problems with disease and migration can also be made worse by water shortages.

A 2009 report by the Washington DC based Woodrow Wilson Center described Pakistan’s water shortage as “deeply troubling.” It quotes South Asia scholar Anatol Lieven as saying that water shortages present “the greatest future threat to the viability of Pakistan as a state and a society.”

So even though Pakistanis suffering from historic flooding may see their problem as having an overabundance of water, in fact, the real problem is having too little of it.