Different researches and real time experiences confirm that climate change has direct impact on access to and management of water for drinking and agriculture purpose in Pakistan. The country is hit hard due to recurring climate catastrophes. Women are at the center of these impacts due to their inequitable access to water and land rights and decision making.
Climate Scientists recommend the world take serious actions to limit emission of greenhouse gases and keep the average global temperature below 1.5°C. This is vital to prevent humanity from climate crisis. In case of Pakistan, even before reaching this threshold, water crisis in the region is already at alarming level. Pakistan by no means can afford the world cross the safe limit of 1.5°C and increase its vulnerabilities manifold.
Declining water as a serious threat to human life in Pakistan: In December 2013, the World Resources Institute ranked Pakistan among the 36 most water-stressed countries in the world. Data from the Water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan indicates in 1951 per capita water availability was 5,650 cubic meters. By 2010, that figure shrank to 1,000 cubic meters and it is set to fall to 800 cubic meters by 2025, when Pakistan’s population rises to 221 million. Alarmingly, groundwater levels in the country are dropping by a meter a year. With this rate, Pakistan is heading towards widespread water poverty in next few years.
According to Water Aid, 16 million people in Pakistan have no choice but to collect unsafe water from unsafe sources. 68 million people don’t have access to adequate sanitation in Pakistan. Around 39,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Pakistan.
Water-stressed agriculture: Nearly 70% of Pakistan’s 291 millimeters of annual rainwater gets wasted because of poor storage facilities. Agriculture accounts for 24% of the total GDP of Pakistan. 68% of its geographical area has annual rainfall of 250mm whereas only 8% of the areas have annual rainfall of 500mm. To meet the food production need, the country thus requires supplemental water for better crops production. The contribution of Agriculture in GDP growth rate has significantly declines from 50% in 1929-50 to about 24% in 196-97. By the year 2050, the urban population of Pakistan is expected to reach 63.7% as compared to only 36 percent in 2010. Rapid increase in population will lead to overwhelming pressure on water supply both for households and agriculture needs.
Women, the most vulnerable: Women face the brunt of climate crisis more than anyone else in the society. Inequitable power relationship, lack of access to different resources like water and land rights, information and training keep women more vulnerable in the face of growing impacts of climate change. Women are often at receiving end by the policy makers and strategists rather than being empowered to find their own solutions and actions to find sustainable water solutions.
Women faces numerous challenges, however natural disasters and conflicts in Pakistan doubles the risks that women face. They have limited access to assets, income and information and their limited mobility restrict them respond to disasters, unlike men. In the agriculture sector, women are disproportionately employed. When disasters hit like flooding, large number of population gets displaced which triggers case of gender based violence and other abuses. In addition, living in displaced settings, women have to travel more to fetch water and collect food and woods as distance between their settlements and source of water increased. Studies from the Asian Development Bank shows that targeted interventions in rural development projects have significantly contributed in women’s empowerment. Another study found that if water is available at household level in some rural communities, families can save as much as 1,200 hours per year.
This analysis simply tells a straightforward story - keep the world under 1.5 Degree threshold as this is the utmost need of countries like Pakistan and its citizens who would otherwise fight for their dignity and search of water to drink and survive.