Water and Food Security

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Water scarcity is a frightening situation that is already happening in Pakistan. The country ranks 14 among the 17 ‘extremely high-water risk’ countries of the world, a list that includes hot and dry countries like Saudi Arabia. Over 80 percent of the total population in the country faces ‘severe water scarcity’ for at least one month of the year. In addition to surface water, Pakistan’s groundwater resources the last resort of water supply are severely overdrawn, mainly to supply water for irrigation. The country is rapidly moving from being classified as water “stressed” to water “scarce” and with its annual water availability fall below 1,000 cubic meters per person, it may in fact have already crossed this threshold. With water availability per person declining year by year, and demand for food production continuously increasing, Pakistan faces not only a water crisis but also serious concerns regarding its future food security. The increasing cost of basic food commodities is the single most severe threat to standard of living in developing countries. In a country such as Pakistan where 50-80% of their income is spent on food, this presents a daunting challenge to livelihoods and contributes to the huge economic inflation currently experienced in Pakistan. The price of wheat flour, which is the country’s staple food continues to skyrocket amidst government and international efforts to stabilize commodity prices. If the situation remains unchanged, the whole country may face severe water and food scarcity by 2025. The situation is strategically more complicated, as Pakistan is the lower riparian country to India and 78 percent of its water inflows from therein. This situation also has clear implications for the government’s efforts to become an upper-middle-income country by 2025 and achieve long-term peace and security.

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