The vulnerability of Pakistan’s water sector to the impacts of climate change: identification of gaps and recommendations for action
Concern has been growing in recent years regarding the potential impact of climate change on Pakistan’s already stressed water resources. Rising temperatures, increasing saltwater intrusion in coastal areas, a growing threat of glacier lake outburst floods, more intense rainfall, and changes in monsoon and winter rainfall patterns are just some of the ways in which climate change is expected to affect Pakistan’s hydrologic resources. These risks amplify an already problematic situation given that Pakistan is among the most waterstressed countries in the world. Per capita access to surface and groundwater sources is expected to continue to decline in the decades ahead, driven largely by rapid population growth and urbanization. Of particular concern is the potential for climate change to affect water flows within the Indus Basin. The majority of Pakistan’s water is provided through the Indus River and its tributaries, which are fed primarily by snow and ice melt in the Hindu Kush-Karakoram- Himalaya mountains. Any change in water flow in the Indus basin will have significant implications for food security in Pakistan given that 90 per cent of total agricultural production occurs on arable land supported by the Indus Basin Irrigation System (Qureshi, 2011). Indus basin water flows also play a critical role in meeting domestic and municipal water supply needs, as well as supporting the country’s energy production, manufacturing and industrial processes.