“What makes wars start? Fights over water, changes in patterns of rainfall, fight over food production. This issue threatens the peace and security of the whole planet”

(Margaret Beckett, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Great Britain).

Erratically disseminated amongst different regions of the world, control over water is going to become a cause of power and conflict in the coming decade. This disproportionate distribution will lead to direct social and economic conflicts, if we do not formulate, execute and prioritize water issues.

Tvedt, T in his book A Journey in the Future of Water states that it is believed that by 2020, the Indian economy may be bigger than that of the USA. It has been predicted to surpass economies of Great Britain and France, becoming the fifth major in the global economies. However, wherever in India one might step, there are problems of water supply in urban areas, for agriculture and proficient water sewage system. The country’s greatest problem is the structural inequity to water accessibility. As some reports have pointed out, thousands of people are living illegally in the slums, there are long queues of millions who choose to buy water from so called ‘the water mafia’, rather than standing in front of water pumps. India farmers commit acts of suicide every year. Maharashtra state western Indian minister has told those producers who demand high water supply to have no more than two children, if they want more water for agriculture.

Across Pakistan, there is a fall in its water table. Factors that are considered responsible for its growing water crisis include population explosion, mismanagement and misconduct of water resources, widespread irrigation in a country that is semiarid and cultivation of crops exported which demand a lot of water i.e. corn, oilseeds, cotton, rice, sugarcane. According to Bashair A. Malik, riots over food are not to be considered events of the past. French Revolution of the 17th Century, as a trigger, was driven by food scarcity and hunger. This threat, then becomes a breeding ground for initiating politics of water and food. When leaders of a country face the dilemma of becoming a food-deficient country, to prevent civil unrest, they look upon foreign aid. A country, in these conditions, can then opt from two choices. It can both work on enhancing its production of food, through irrigation, which requires water, protecting its sovereignty or it can become a satellite state of a food surplus country. For Pakistan, it is imperative that it manages its water resources, entangling the strings of foreign assistance and aid.

India indeed has geographical and strategical advantage, being an upper riparian state, but for downstream Pakistan, which depends on a single river, which is progressively drying up and has huge seasonal floods, there is a threat to its domestic order. However, Pakistan cannot wholly blame its water crisis on India. As Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated:

“Pakistan cannot ‘pass the buck’ to India for its own ‘mismanagement’of water resources. Is India steeling the water from you? No, it is not. Please do not fool yourself and do not misguide the nation. We are mismanaging that water.”

Indus Water Commissioner, Mirza Asif Baig states that India and Pakistan are both very populous countries and the growth rates of the population are also high and the economies of both the countries are dependent on agriculture. At present both countries are at developing stage while as these will approach the status of better development the requirements of food and fiber and other amenities of life would increase leading to increased demand for water. In case of the Indus Waters Treaty we did not get a fair deal but got what was considered adequate, which we could live with. If India and Pakistan both act in a responsible manner, the chances of going to war on water issue would not be significant. What best can be done under these circumstances is to strengthen ourselves, internally, which is the basic parameter even for implementation of the present Treaty. Better governance, better utilization of available resources and assigning a higher value to water are possible solutions. If India and Pakistan both act in a responsible manner the chances of going to war on water issue would not be significant. The following considerations for Water Management Strategy has been presented by the water commissioner:

a.       Pakistan must be self-sufficient in food. Food security not to be left with uncertainties of global market.

b.      Water scarcity main hurdle to increase food production.

c.       Increase quantum of water through the development of additional storages.  Water resources development projects on Indus River are the key to prosperity and to avert looming water crises.

d.      Commitment at the political level for goals.