PAKISTAN has been facing severe floods and droughts due to a lack of planning during the monsoon for the last many years.
There is a dire need to formulate a comprehensive national policy on water as the country is going to face an acute water shortage in the near future.
An increasing population makes it imperative to save each drop of precipitation. As 80pc rainfalls occur during the monsoon season, within 2-3 months, the storage of rainwater is the only way to address water and food security in the country.
Collective efforts for rainwater harvesting, even in irrigated areas by individual farmers at their farms, can bring a revolution in livelihood in this country, along with a solution to the groundwater recharge for future use.
Monsoon has set in and it is time to store every drop of water, from households to ponds and from ponds to dams. The Meteorology Department can help using its advanced forecasting system to gauge the quantity of rain expected, with reference to time and location.
No doubt the biggest source of storing rainwater is by constructing big dams which are imperative on a long term basis to address our current and future energy and water needs.
Looking at the climate and topography, most of the rains occur in mountains followed by Potohar and then the plain areas. The range of rainfall lies between 200-1500mm per year, much of it in the short span of two months.
The rainfall on mountain tops needs big dams while the monsoons in pre-mountainous areas can be stored in smallponds.
There is a potential of over 13,000 ponds in just four districts of Potohar. Water stored in small ponds can change the traditional agriculture of the Potohar to the production of fruits and vegetables, not only for domestic consumption but also for export to the international market.
Our agriculture is not merely canal based agriculture but relies significantly on groundwater extraction.
The canal system was designed to irrigate only 70pc cropping intensity which has gone up to 200pc and most of the irrigation water is being pumped. This may eventually play havoc if not properly recharged.
The rain-fed ponds also would address water recharge. The lack of groundwater recharge may lead to the dire consequences of desertification. Groundwater recharge can be done by various techniques such as rainwater harvesting at household level in urban areas, developing ponds in our parks and farms, plugging our flood drains and even diverting our river flows to facilitate artificial groundwater recharge.
The most important concern is about water waste. The inhabitants of the five rivers’ land should now realise that they need to save and conserve water.
The situation is further worsened as increasingly contaminated and brackish water is also left unattended, leading to groundwater pollution.
As a nation we have to come up with solutions to overcome water scarcity. The solution lies in adopting international best practices.
Our scientists and researchers have successfully customised and developed successful models, which, if adopted, can result in a paradigm shift in our efforts to improve the livelihood of the people.
We at Arid Agriculture University developed models for urban and agricultural rainwater harvesting systems.
In the first stage a rainwater harvesting pond was developed at the university in order to store rain water from roof tops, roads and streets. In addition to groundwater recharge for existing tubewells in the university and nearby pumping units this water is used to irrigate plants, meadows and crop experimentation within the university.
In the second stage five ponds have been built on the area of 2,200 kanal of land with collaboration of the Higher Education Commission.
The 80-acre feet of water is stored at University Research Farms.
The Agency for Barani Area Development has tried to store rain water in sloppy and low lying areas by building mini dams.
It is very difficult to take downward water to upward areas, and thus the command area of Potohar could not be developed for fruit farms, flowers and vegetable farms.
GIS and Remote sensing surveys reveal that as many as 13,000 ponds can be built in the Potohar.
Collective efforts for rainwater harvesting even in the irrigated areas by individual farmers at their farms can bring a revolution in livelihood in this country along with a solution to the groundwater recharge for future use.
We as a nation have to move for zero runoff at every level to minimise flood devastations in terms of precious lives, lands and infrastructure, and as an answer to our increasing water shortage.
The writer is the vice chancellor, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi.