ISLAMABAD – The Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) has called upon the government to focus on building more small and large dams to ensure sustainable economic growth of the country.
In a statement issued here on Wednesday, ICCI President Atif Ikram Sheikh said that the rising water crisis in Pakistan had the potential to not only hamper the economic growth but to also threaten other areas of the national economy.
“Pakistan is amongst the world’s 36 most water-stressed countries and if proper planning is not done right now for water conservation, the situation will get worse with increase in population,” he expressed the fear.
He said that already more than 35 percent of the country’s population lacked access to safe drinking water. “The number could double in the next 10 to 15 years given that no planning has been done so far to conserve water,” he warned.
The ICCI president said Pakistan had the world’s most extensive irrigation system, but in order to harness this system small and large dams are required throughout the country. “Such water reservoirs would meet the rising water demand, offset the effects of floods and help properly utilise 50,000MW hydropower available in the country,” he elaborated.
Sheikh said it was a pity that currently dams in Pakistan could store water to meet the demand for 30 days only, compared to 1,000 days of Egypt and 220 days of India.
He said Pakistan had built only three mega dams and scores of small barrages since 1947, while China and India had built 22,000 and 4,200 small and large dams respectively to meet their water needs.
He further said that per capita water storage in the US stood at 6,150 cubic meters; in Australia at 5,000 cubic meters, but in Pakistan it was only 135 cubic meters, which showed that Pakistan was highly vulnerable in terms of water storage capacity.
Citing the IMF estimates, the ICCI president said that demand for water in Pakistan was projected to reach 274 million acre-feet (MAF) by 2025, while due to less water storage facilities, supply was expected to remain stagnant at 191 MAF, showing a demand-supply gap of 83 MAF.
“This situation calls for construction of more water reservoirs to save the country from a terrible water crisis and to ensure sustainable socio-economic development of the country,” he asserted.