Hill Torrent Water: A Potential Water Resource for Pakistan?

Khuram Mubeen

Department of Agronomy, MNS University of Agriculture Multan (Punjab) Pakistan

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Water vitality for life is well established. Globally “water economy” is of paramount importance in modern times. This is even more worthwhile for the developing countries. A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report ranks Pakistan globally 3rd among the countries with severe shortage of water [Baloch, 2018]. By 2025, water availability per person annually will be 809 m3 in Pakistan [Bakhsh et al., 2014]. Per capita water storage capacity situation is also very vulnerable in Pakistan. Per person storage capability of 5000, 6150, 2200, and 150 m3 in Australia, the US, China, and Pakistan, respectively, represents a gloomy picture for Pakistan (Amin and Han, 2009; Qureshi, 2011).

The main resources of the water for Pakistan are

  1. Surface water {per person water availability: 1090 m3 (Tariq et al., 2020)}
  2. Ground water {Pakistan ranks high among countries facing groundwater shortage (Ishaque and Shaikh, 2017)}.
  3. Precipitation {Most of Pakistan’s area receive low average rainfall below 200 mm annually (Alamgir et al., 2016)}.

Additionally the lack of seriousness to improve water storage capacity is further amalgamating the national water availability (Raza et al 2017). On the other hand, increasing population demands more crop production besides addressing the issue of mismanagement of available water resources.

Everyone talks about shrinking water resources of the country. The Indus basin canal irrigation system is already in use. Under the changing dynamics, the future development in agriculture lies under the spate irrigation system making efficient and wise use of hill torrent water.

The current area under spate irrigation traditionally fluctuate between 0.34 M hectares to 1.28 M hectares in dry to wet years which in potentiality may extend to around 7 M hectares. Is this an over rated approximation? May be to an extent, but the fact however remains very clear that there is a lot of potential to be explored in spate ecologies.

The other question which may arise is whether the existing farm productivity in spate systems is sufficient? The answer is No.

Is there an established system of research on different aspects of hill torrent water management and spate irrigation? Unfortunately again the answer is a big No.

Does the spate irrigated area possess a significant potential of contribution in National food security? Yes provided hill torrent prone areas are given due importance in planning and development.

Does the spate irrigation potential in the country (up to 10% at present) possess even more potential for contribution in national development? The answer would be Yes and it needs to be explored under varying dimensions. Pakistan having largest area under hill torrent management system globally should have been supposed to be the world leader in spate irrigation system.

How much water volume through hill torrents can be saved? What would happen if hill torrent management and spate irrigation is ignored further? To answer these questions we have to look into following information.

Around 55% of Pakistan area is drained by hill torrents (NESPAK, 1995). The average run off per year from hill torrents in Pakistan is around 12.15 MAF. Other researchers have reported yearly potential of water from 14 major hill torrents to be around 23 billion m3 (Sufi et al., 2011). Whereas the live storage capacity of our largest water reservoir is far below this. The above statement depicts the importance of water value we are wasting through hill torrents. This huge volume of water loss is also damaging the infrastructure, vegetation and properties (both public and private) besides life losses for humans and animals etc.  Land degradation and soil erosion is becoming worse and worse over time and farmers cannot uplift the water for diverting to their fields. This water diversion to farmer fields demands more energy consumption and making the traditional agricultural production system even more fragile. Hill torrent management facilities needs to be improved to stop this huge wastage of water volume and also to make the best use of this national water resource.

The other very important question is whether the canal water and ground water without the use of hill torrent water can ensure a safe water budget for Pakistan in future on sustainable basis in the back drop of increasing population and dwindling canal and ground water resources? The answer seems No.

As per above discussion, it is pertinent to note that we should harvest hill torrent water resource to its maximum potential. Hill torrent water channelization (“Spate Basin Irrigation system” is proposed here which may be constructed as per geographical and population needs) can be a viable option based on technical studies and surveys of the hill torrent areas. Harvesting hill torrent water will also reduce the energy cost in hill torrent areas.

Furthermore, it is important to note that under the changing climate and sea pack scenario in Pakistan, the hill torrent areas are going to be the economic hub in future owing to unexplored potential and resources including water, land and landscape etc. Nature has blessed Pakistan with a huge water resource in the form of Hill torrents. We just need to set up a right direction and investment plans as per needs of the poorest residents of such ecologies by looking into all possible and impact oriented interventions on sustainable basis.

Hill torrents are a blessing in disguise. We should foresee hill torrents as a resource rather than a monster. A productive hill torrent water management system should also reduce burden on canal water and ground water for agriculture and other uses. It is the need of the time to realize hill torrent water as a precious nature gifted potential water resource in the context of water economy and national development of the homeland.    




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Author: Dr. Ayesha Hakim has a PhD in Computer Science from Massey University, New Zealand. She joined University of Auckland as Research Specialist and then joined Waikato Institute of Technology (WINTEC) as a Lecturer in Computer Science. She moved to Pakistan in 2018 where she is currently an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at MNS-University of Agriculture, Multan.  She is IEEE counsellor and focal person of blended learning and LMS. Her research interests include data science, precision agriculture, shape and audio analysis. She is currently working on developing computational systems for insect-pest surveillance, identification and control using AI and IoT applications.

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Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and plays a vital role in the overall development and progress of the country. It is about producing food and relevant products by raising certain crops and managing livestock for desired purposes. Farmer is the key person who is responsible for preparing fields, sowing seeds, managing irrigation, protecting crops from pests, and harvesting the crops at the right time. There are a lot of different factors affecting the crop production and quality including soil composition and condition, weather patterns, temperature, light intensity, water level, diseases, pests and weeds in the field. The success of farming depends upon controlling all these factors to achieve the desired yield and quality of crops.

The Department of Food Science and Technology was established in 2014 at Muhammad Nawaz Shareef University of Agriculture, Multan. Keeping in view the current scenario of the world and our own country for food safety and food security, the department is aimed to produce well trained human resource for the emerging needs of the food industry.

Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (FVAS), MNS University of Agriculture, Multan, is constituted recently and is struggling to earn repute of excellence with intellect and future foresight.

Computer Science is the subject of experimentation and engineering that form the foundation for the design and function of information processing systems. It is the scientific approach of computation and a systematic study of feasibility, structure, expression and mechanization that enables the efficient and effective access to information systems.