Water-stressed Pakistan looks for billions in donations to build dams

By Roshan Din Shad MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, Feb 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As Pakistan faces worsening water scarcity – and trouble sourcing international cash for hydropower dams it says it needs – it has turned to an unlikely source of cash: A fundraising campaign backed by the country’s top court judges.
Last year Mian Saqib Nisar – then the country’s chief supreme court judge – donated a million Pakistani rupees ($7,400) of his own money to start the drive, calling water shortages a major national threat.
"Building dams is not the responsibility of the court," said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of party Pakistan Peoples Party.
"Water (scarcity) has been Pakistan’s number one issue and the country may face shortages by 2025 if dams are not built," Khan warned in a state television address last September.
"Pakistanis, do take part in this jihad," the prime minister urged.
Nisar has said he took up Pakistan’s water worries as a personal campaign after Syed Mehar Ali, commissioner of the country’s Indus water treaty, testified in a court hearing last July about worsening water scarcity risks in the country.
Ali told the court that the country’s three western rivers – the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – carry nearly 140 million acre feet (MAF) of water but the country has water storage capacity for less than 14 MAF.
But building them has proved difficult.
An effort to construct a large-scale hydropower dam in Gilgit Baltistan, a Kashmir border region disputed with India, for instance, has had trouble attracting multinational funding.
Dozens of farmers from Sindh province marched to Karachi last October to protest construction of the Diamer Basha dam on the Indus River.

Four reasons small farms are running out of water – and how we can fix it

Water scarcity is a top risk to global food production.
1) Competition – and one group wins First, physical water scarcity can occur when there is simply not enough water to meet all demands – when use outpaces replenishment.
For example, when an upstream irrigation scheme consumes too much water, downstream farmers are left to do without.
2) Not everyone has access to the technologies Sometimes technologies to fight water scarcity exist, but the people who need them most are left out by inequitable or otherwise flawed institutions.
Rather, addressing this scarcity also requires overcoming issues of access, equity and siloed thinking.
The right business models can support smallholder farmers to address water scarcity.
For example, investments in developing businesses through training, stronger supply chains and credit access could encourage more entrepreneurs to invest in new technologies such as solar irrigation pumps.
Another option is to invest in increased water storage, such as on-farm ponds.
Policy change in combination with investments in innovative business models is a promising option for alleviating water scarcity.
Only with this winning combination can we protect small farms from water scarcity and take the essential steps toward food security.

FACTBOX-Places where water is scarce and getting scarcer

LONDON, Dec 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Water scarcity affects almost half the world’s population, a number that is expected to rise in the coming decades even as global warming, population growth, urbanisation and rising agricultural needs put further strain on supplies.
The issue was on Friday’s agenda in the Polish town of Katowice, where representatives of more than 190 countries have come together for U.N.-sponsored climate talks.
Following is information on some of the countries most threatened by water scarcity.
More than half of Niger’s 20 million people do not have access to clean water.
Only one in 10 people has access to a decent toilet.
About 10 percent of Pakistan’s population does not have access to clean water.
In 1947, the figure stood at about 5,000 cubic metres per person.
Today it is 1,000 cubic metres.
Pakistan has more glaciers than any other country outside the polar region.
In Sudan, a country of 43 million people, only 2 percent of water is available for domestic use.

Drought-threatened Zimbabwe faces a quandary: Grow maize or not?

EZIMNYAMA, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As Zimbabwe’s farmers head to the fields to plant, the country is facing yet another dry growing season, meteorologists predict.
Drought-hardy grains such as sorghum are “unprofitable” and hard work, complains the 56-year-old, who farms two hectares (five acres) of land in Ezimnyama, a village near the Botswana border.
As climate change brings more frequent and harsh droughts, maize is becoming harder to grow in many parts of Zimbabwe – but it is still what people want to eat and many farmers want to plant, which makes shifting away from it a challenge.
Zimbabwe’s government is trying, however.
This year its Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has said it will buy “small grains” such as sorghum or finger millet from farmers at the same price as maize – or let farmers who grow small grains swap them for an equivalent amount of maize to take home.
“You can sell whatever quantity of small grains, such as rapoko, millet, sorghum, to the GMB at the same price as maize,” said Marshall Perrance Shiri, Zimbabwe’s minister of land, agriculture, water, climate and resettlement, in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
But farmers have balked at switching, he said, because they fear they will have to eat the sorghum and other small grains they grow, and they prefer not to do that.
Babbage said his farmer’s union was working with the meteorological officials, the Ministry of Local Government and government agricultural support organization AGRITEX to find ways to cut drought risks and get small-scale farmers to change their minds about planting small grains.
Seed companies “must avail adequate small grain seed for drought-prone areas so that farmers have no excuses not to plant small grains,” he said.
Shiri, the agriculture minister, said farmers who switch to growing and eating maize alternatives could see health benefits – and that such grains were, until recently, staple foods in Zimbabwe.

FEATURE-As groundwater runs short, water battles grow in parched Chennai

CHENNAI, India, Nov 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When the thousands of water lorry drivers who shore up parched Chennai’s overtaxed water delivery system went on strike for three days last month, to protest a ruling restricting their access to groundwater, a water crisis ensued.
For Parthasarthy, that’s a good business opportunity, and a chance to add to his fleet of 15 water trucks as the Tamil Nadu state government struggles to meet growing demand for clean water.
The port city of Chennai needs 800 million litres of water a day to meet demand for water, according to official data.
In particular, Chennai depends on more than 4,000 private water tankers for its everyday water needs.
According to the Chennai Private Water Tanker Lorry Association, which has more than 1,000 members, each tanker makes up to five trips a day, ferrying water from the outskirts of the city to apartments, hotels, malls and offices.
Altogether, the tankers deliver 200 million litres of water a day to Chennai, according to the association.
But critics say the firms’ use of rural water is depriving people in those areas of sufficient water – and that fast-depleting water supplies mean it’s time to rethink how water is managed in Chennai.
Last month, the Madras High Court – Chennai’s highest court – finally ruled on a petition brought by 75 drinking water bottlers against the 2014 Tamil Nadu water restrictions.
Bottlers had demanded exemption from the order, arguing that good monsoon rains would adequately replenish disappearing groundwater.
The plant would provide 150 million litres a day of water to Chennai and its suburbs, and is expected to be running in the next five years, he said.

FEATURE-In Pakistan, a high mountain water pipe brings a bonus: peace

SIKSA, Pakistan, Sept 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When a pipeline was installed last year to bring spring water and snowmelt to this village of 500 households in northern Pakistan, it brought something else as well: peace.
She estimates the system now channels over 5 billion litres of water a year – and ensures a water supply year-round.
“That can only be achieved by providing mountain communities with a reliable source of water in the right quantity and at the right time,” Khan said.
Sakina, who like most villagers uses just one name, said that until a few years ago water was abundant, with heavy winter snow meaning plenty of water flowed even in summer.
That meant less water for irrigation and less crops and income,” she said.
But since the water storage tank was installed, “all these fields have become green again”, she said, pointing to terraced fields where tomatoes, aubergine, okra and pumpkin grow against a backdrop of towering, bare-sloped mountains.
“We would have to go fetch water in plastic containers from springs higher up in the mountains, which would take hours, then use it sparingly to wash clothes and for cooking and drinking.
A reliable supply of water also has allowed villagers for the first time in year to sell a surplus of vegetables grown in the nearby market towns of Khaplu and Skardu, Khan said.
Villagers also have planted fruit trees – meaning better nutrition and higher incomes, Khan said.
Khan said the previous government had pushed for more tree planting and provided villagers with free popular saplings, which will also become a new source of income as they grow.

Half the world’s schools lack clean water, toilets and handwashing

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nearly half the world’s schools lack clean drinking water, toilets and handwashing facilities, putting millions of children at risk of disease, experts warned on Monday.
Almost 900 million children have to contend with a lack of basic hygiene facilities during their education, putting their health at risk and meaning some have to miss school.
“You can’t have a quality learning environment without these basics,” said Dr Rick Johnston of the World Health Organization, a lead researcher on the project.
“Children may not come to school at all if there’s no toilets … Then, when they are at school, they are not going to at their very best if they not able to use a decent toilet or if they are not properly hydrated.” World leaders have signed up to global pledges to provide safe water and hygiene facilities for all and ensure every child gets a comprehensive education by 2030 under the UN’s sustainable development goals.
It found nearly a third of primary and secondary schools lacked a safe and reliable drinking water supply, affecting nearly 570 million children.
Just over a third of schools lacked adequate toilet facilities, affecting more than 620 million children.
Nearly 900 million children were affected, the report found.
Sub-Saharan Africa, East and Southeast Asia had some of the worst facilities.
More than a third of girls in South Asia miss school during their periods, often because they lack access to toilets or pads, according to a WaterAid and UNICEF study earlier this year.
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Clean water for all is still centuries away, aid group warns

TEPIC, Mexico, July 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – S upplying clean water and toilets for all could take hundreds of years in countries like Eritrea and Namibia unless governments step up funding to tackle the problem and its harmful effects on health, an international development agency warned on Monday.
WaterAid – which says nearly 850 million people lack clean water – predicted the world will miss a global goal to provide drinking water and adequate sanitation for everyone by 2030.
Meeting it will cost $28 billion per year, the non-profit said.
“We’re really calling for governments to pull up their socks,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from the United Nations in New York.
From July 9-18, governments are reviewing progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed at the United Nations in 2015, with a focus on six of the 17.
Last week, U.N. officials said barriers to achieving the 2030 water and sanitation targets range from conflict and water pollution to climate change, urging more efficient water use.
Drawing on U.N. data, the UK-based group calculated some countries will need hundreds of years to provide safe drinking water and toilets for all their people, meaning countries collectively are thousands of years off track.
At current rates, Namibians would have to wait until 2246 for everyone to have clean water, while all Eritreans would not get it until 2507 and Nicaraguans not until 2180, WaterAid said.
Governments should fund water and sanitation provision from their own budgets, and work with utilities and private companies to reach people in isolated areas, said Carvalho.
“There’s money around – it’s just not allocated in the right way,” he said, urging international donors to increase spending on water and sanitation.

India’s ‘worst water crisis in history’ leaves millions thirsty

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Weak infrastructure and a national shortage have made water costly all over India, but Sushila Devi paid a higher price than most.
It is alright for bathing and washing the dishes.” Water pollution is a major challenge, the report said, with nearly 70 percent of India’s water contaminated, impacting three in four Indians and contributing to 20 percent of the country’s disease burden.
“Our surface water is contaminated, our groundwater is contaminated.
See, everywhere water is being contaminated because we are not managing our solid waste properly,” said the report’s author Avinash Mishra.
You fall ill because you don’t have access to safe drinking water, because your water is contaminated.” “The burden of not having access to safe drinking water, that burden is greatest on the poor and the price is paid by them.”
Crippling water problems could shave 6 percent off India’s gross domestic product, according to the report by the government think-tank, Niti Aayog.
To tackle this crisis, which is predicted to get worse, the government has urged states – responsible for supplying clean water to residents – to prioritise treating waste water to bridge the supply and demand gap and to save lives.
Currently, only 70 percent of India’s states treat less than half of their wastewater.
The Yamuna river that flows through New Delhi can be seen covered under a thick, detergent-like foam on some days.
That does not stop 10-year-old Gauri, who lives in a nearby slum, from jumping in every day.

FEATURE-In India’s parched Bundelkhand, drought brings a tide of migration

IGLAS, India, July 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Khuba Chand increasingly finds himself alone in Iglas, a drought-parched village in the Bundelkhand region of India’s Madhya Pradesh state.
As ever-lengthening drought becomes the new normal, Bundelkhand, a parched region split between India’s Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh states, is clearing out.
In Chand’s village, in Tikamgarh district, only a quarter of the 70 farmers working there 10 years ago now remain.
India’s government runs a national employment guarantee scheme under which those in need of work in rural areas can be paid for 100 days of it each year.
The Madhya Pradesh government announced last year, for instance, that it would no longer include work to de-silt and deepen water ponds as part of employment under the job scheme.
Some drought-hit families in Madhya Pradesh who relied on that work now have lost it, they say.
“The rivers flow when there is good rainfall during the monsoon season.
But the measures have not been enough to stop large-scale migration of rural villagers to urban areas.
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also in January announced a $20 million relief package for farmers in drought-hit areas, including supplies of drinking water and fodder for animals.
The India Meteorological Department has said there is low probability that 2018 will be a drought year.