Today, the dynamics of security have changed and, as a result, along with traditional security, the non-traditional aspect of security has also gained substantial significance. The non-traditional security aspect emphasizes on non-traditional threats, such as food insecurity, diseases, poverty, climatic changes, population growth, and water scarcity. Among these non-traditional (or non-military) threats, water scarcity is the most significant issue for a country like Pakistan. It is facing an acute water shortage due to the depletion of water resources for a variety of reasons. Major factors in this context are rapid population growth, inadequate water storage due to lack of water reservoirs, mismanagement of water resources, low system efficiency, groundwater depletion, climatic changes, and global warming. Today, the scholars of security studies consider water scarcity as a challenging issue for Pakistan that needs to be analysed with great care and objectivity. In today’s globalised world, national security is understood keeping in mind the different components and aspects of security.
One important aspect of national security is a state’s security in terms of its water needs and resources. Pakistan, a primarily agricultural economy, is facing declining water availability and quality, growing water pollution, inadequate water storage for survival and overall environmental insecurity. This situation, coupled with institutional and governance failures, is fostering domestic discord. Water is essential, whether for survival, health, food, or general economic development. In Pakistan, as in many parts of Asia, population growth, elite capture of public benefits, rapid urbanisation, and shifts in production and consumption patterns; coupled with governance failures have placed unprecedented stress on water resources. This can embitter interethnic relations and prompt political tension, which can in turn lead to violence.
On Pakistan’s interstate water security issues with India and Afghanistan, the tensions between them are threatening domestic political and environmental security in an already fragile region. Intrastate conflicts can cause more damage and violence than interstate water disputes. Diminishing water quality also leads to almost daily protests for better services. In a country that depends heavily on water, addressing water scarcity problems can alleviate much of the economic and social vulnerabilities that render Pakistan unstable.
Intrastate water tensions and challenges are linked with agriculture. This sector has seen production growth over the last few decades, but it is terribly affected with inefficiency and mismanagement. Water constraints will require changes in the types of food produced as well as efficient irrigation practices that improve water quality. About 80 percent of cultivated land in Pakistan is irrigated, of which about 33 percent is affected by waterlogging and soil salinity, leading to extreme declines (an estimated 25 percent) in crop yields, especially downstream. These issues are becoming a driving force to demand for more water, which will eventually lead Pakistan to deal with the crisis through hawkish measures with the neighbouring states, particularly India that is causing huge troubles in supply of water towards Pakistan.
Therefore, there is a dire need to resolve water issues of Pakistan that may lead to war if they remain unresolved.
Written by: Mehak Cheema
Edited by: Amna Sheikh