Pakistan's Water Crisis Threatens Livelihood, Stability : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Friday, April 20 9:22 AM SGT

Pakistan's Water Crisis Threatens Livelihood, Stability

KOTRI, Pakistan (AP)--Dhani Baksh remembers when the Indus River raged through Pakistan's southern province of Sindh - the lifeblood of fishermen and farmers. But now, after two years of drought and record low snowfalls in northern Pakistan, the once mighty Indus is a mere trickle in some places. Fishing has been decimated, farmland is parched, and rioters have smashed windows and overturned cars to protest water shortages in Karachi, the country's largest city.

"It is the most serious water crisis in decades, " declared Mohammed Hussain Pahanwar, a leading irrigation engineer.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz is predicting Pakistan will lose $1.2 billion in agricultural revenue, and agricultural experts and political analysts are warning of troubled times ahead.

Entire villages have relocated from the Indus River's banks, where fertile silt dumped by the river's flood waters helped give birth of an early civilization some 5,000 years ago.

At Kotri, 190 kilometers northeast of where the Indus flows into the Arabian sea, fisherman Baksh says that at 72 he's too old to leave. Instead he hauls his rickety wooden boat out into the shallow river water to pull in a meager haul - a few small prawns.

"This is my entire day's collection," he said.

In the Indus Delta, thousands of farmers and fishermen have migrated, too. There, the little available water is salty and unfit to drink.

Most of the farmland in Sindh, Pakistan's southernmost province, is irrigated by a network of canals that are now generally parched.

"The wheat production in Sindh has fallen by almost 40%," said Qamaruzzaman Shah, chairman of Pakistan Chamber of Agriculture.

The government is predicting wheat production will fall to 17.5 million tons this year, compared with last year's record 22 million tons.

Agricultural specialists also predict a bad year for cotton, which was planted late because of the water shortage. Rice and sugarcane won't fare much better because they are thirsty crops.

Unemployment Rate May Rise

"A poor crop season will severely impact farmers' cash flow which means they won't be able to sow wheat next season," said Shah.

The fall in agricultural production is bad news for Pakistan's cash-strapped military regime.

The country's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture. The drought means economic growth won't be as high as predicted, incomes will shrink and the unemployment rate - already around 50% - will rise.

Add to that the financial burden of importing wheat. Agricultural authorities estimate Pakistan will have to buy 1.2 million tons of wheat to make up the shortfall caused by drought.

This will hurt the country's meager foreign exchange reserves which stands at about $1 billion.

The troubled financial implications of the drought are second only to the political mess it is creating.

For much of the last week, demonstrators took to the streets daily in Karachi, which with a population of 14 million is the country's financial hub. Dozens of people have been arrested and entire business districts shut down.

The water shortage has caused bitter bickering between provinces. People in Sindh blame some of their water troubles on Punjab to the northeast, Pakistan's most prosperous province.

The Sindh provincial government has accused Punjab of damming rivers and reducing the water supply to the southern province in violation of a water distribution agreement. People in Sindh also accuse the Punjabi-dominated army, which rules in Pakistan, of being biased against their province.

"The water crisis threatens the very unity of the country," said Pahanwar, the irrigation expert.

In Sindh, the crisis has united political rivals and given extremist Sindhi nationalists a weapon with which to mobilize public support for their demand for greater autonomy or outright independence.

The water dispute with Punjab has brought together warring ethnic groups such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, representing urban Urdu-speaking migrants to Pakistan from India, and the Jeay Sindh, a militant Sindhi nationalist group.

"This is a matter of survival for all the people living in this province," said Mohammed Jalil, a Muttahida Qaumi leader.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 20, 2001


*******and rioters have smashed windows and overturned cars to protest water shortages in Karachi, the country's largest city.*******

I am SURE that that will bring rain! Seems that they have the same kind of rain dance that our inner cities have when things get "hot and dry"!!

-- Taz (, April 20, 2001.

ROFLMAO Taz!!! I needed that today.

-- NdewTyme (, April 20, 2001.

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