The Water Crisis in Pakistan

analysis: The Hydra has a fourth head — William B Milam
Daily Times, November 26, 2008

Last week, at the Wilson Centre, the Hydra of Pakistan’s crises reared a fourth ugly head, one that, I think, not enough of us are thinking about. It is Pakistan’s water crisis, the forgotten crisis that, in the long run, could prove as fatal to the state as the three we think about all the time. This was laid out in 8 excellent presentations during a one-day conference that kept the audience there and listening intently until the end.

The organisers asked, for example, if we knew that Pakistan spends, on average, 47 times more on its military budgets than on water and sanitation; that more residents of Karachi die each month from contaminated water than all the soldiers killed in wars with India since 1947; that water availability declined from 5000 cubic meters per capita in 1951 to 1200 now (and 1000 is the threshold below which no country can sink without severe consequences)? The water crisis affects, of course, all Pakistan’s other crises — economic, energy, health, political, even security.

What struck me, as I listened through the day to the obviously well-informed and intelligent speakers, is that, like the country’s other problems, the water crisis has inspired a number of articulate, talented, and motivated Pakistanis to get involved and to work through civil society organisations of one sort or another to get Pakistan on the right track. The question is, then, in this as in all the other crises (Pakistan seems to have quite a few), why, with such bright, well informed, articulate, motivated people working hard for better policies, do those policies remain unchanged and counterproductive.

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