Pakistan grapples with water scarcity at the start of sowing season

Lahore: Pakistan is confronting a significant 30 per cent water deficit at the onset of the sowing season for vital cash crops such as rice and cotton, according to the country’s water regulator.

The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has attributed this shortfall to a below-average winter snowfall in Pakistan’s northern glacier region, impacting the catchment areas of the Indus and Jhelum Rivers crucial for irrigation.

Kharif crops, encompassing rice, maize, sugarcane, and cotton, are typically sown in April and necessitate a moist and warm climate with substantial rainfall.

Muhammad Azam Khan, an assistant researcher with IRSA, highlighted the influence of climate change on the country’s glaciers, resulting in diminished snowfall. “This will have a direct impact on the availability of water for kharif crops in the summer,” he told AFP.

The gap in water supply is projected to lessen with the arrival of monsoon rains later in the season. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s meteorological department has forecast higher-than-normal temperatures during the monsoon period, adding to the uncertainty.

Agriculture stands as Pakistan’s largest economic sector, contributing approximately 24 per cent to its GDP. However, it has faced criticism for its inefficiency in water usage.

Muhammad Azam Khan of IRSA emphasised the necessity for improved water management in light of the current shortfall. “What this current water shortfall means for the crops is that authorities will have to better plan on how to utilise the water that is allotted to them,” he explained.

Pakistan, with a population exceeding 250 million, has been increasingly grappling with the profound impacts of climate change, characterised by shifting and unpredictable weather patterns. The devastation wrought by floods in 2022, which scientists linked to climate change, affected over 30 million people and severely impacted Pakistan’s cotton crop that year.


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