Ihsan Afridi

Water is a basic need for the survival of all living organisms on earth. However, global climate change, coupled with rapid-fire population growth, has resounded in a water extremity in numerous corridors of the world. The Merged Areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan is one similar area that is facing severe water scarcity in recent times.

Overuse, climate change, and other factors including lack of planning in the past oppressively depleted the water resources in the region leading to a severe deficit of clean and safe drinking water.

The Merged Areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the former tribal areas of Pakistan, is a semi-arid region. It’s located in the northwestern part of Pakistan and its terrain is characterized by mountains.

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The Merged districts have a population of over 5 million people, the utmost of whom relies on agriculture, animal husbandry, and small business for their livelihood. Still, due to the water scarcity and militancy, the agrarian productivity of the region has dropped significantly, leading to a decline in the socio-economic conditions of the people which is evident from the slow pace of development in the areas.

A combination of factors is causing water scarcity in the Merged Areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Firstly, the region receives limited rainfall, and the available water resources such as streams and springs are seasonal and dependent on the heavy rains and snowfall, and the overuse of these resources has led to their reduction and water pollution.

Secondly, the region has been facing the consequences of climate change which has resulted in a drop in the quantum of rainfall, increased temperature, and rainfall patterns are disturbed. These changes have further aggravated the water scarcity in the region.

The water scarcity in the Merged Areas has severe consequences, particularly for women and children. Women in the region have to walk for long hauls to fetch water, which is frequently polluted and unsafe for consumption because of the open drainage systems due to a lack of proper planning in the area. Children are unfit to attend schools as they have to help their families in collecting water from springs and dug wells.

The shortage of water has also led to conflicts among communities over water resources. Thus, there’s a critical need for planning for the conservation of water in the Merged Areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The government, civil society associations, and the community must work together to address water scarcity.

One of the vital ways is to create awareness, among the people about the significance of water conservation and the need for sustainable use of water resources, by launching education programs to educate people about the conservation of water and the effective use of water resources.

The government should invest in the development of new water resources conservation projects in the region such as rainwater harvesting, construction of small dams, and other water conservation measures.

The government should also launch a comprehensive program to improve the water infrastructures of the region, similar to the construction of new water supply systems and the provision of sanitation installations for efficient use of water resources and conservation.

Bearing in mind the climatic changes, the government should ensure the conservation of water in the Merged Areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It should also integrate Climate change adaptation measures such as the construction of water resources retention structures and supply systems into the planning process.

The government should also develop contingency plans for water shortages and other extreme events.

The community should partake in the planning process for water conservation. The government should hold community meetings and involve community leaders in the planning process to overcome these issues well before it is further deteriorated by the anticipated climatic changes.

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