Katas Raj Temple Case Exposes Pakistan's Groundwater Crisis
Why is the temple pond drying up? What is happening to the water source that used to keep it full? Is it symptomatic of a much larger life-and-death issue of water stress Pakistan faces? Let's explore the answers to these questions.
Katas Raj temple pond is a victim of the falling water table due to increasing use of groundwater in Pakistan. Pakistan, India, and the United States are responsible for two-thirds of that outsize groundwater use globally, according to a report by University College London researcher Carole Dalin. Nearly half of this groundwater is used to grow wheat and rice crops for domestic consumption and exports. This puts Pakistan among the world's largest exporters of its rapidly depleting groundwater.
NASA Satellite Maps:
Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources is working with United States' National Air and Space Administration (NASA) to monitor groundwater resources in the country.
|Water Stress Satellite Map Source: NASA|
The US space agency uses Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to measure earth's groundwater. GRACE’s pair of identical satellites, launched in 2002, map tiny variations in Earth's gravity. Since water has mass, it affects these measurements. Therefore, GRACE data can help scientists monitor where the water is and how it changes over time, according to NASA.
Building large dams is only part of the solution to water stress in Pakistan. The other, more important part, is building structures to trap rain water for recharging aquifers across the country.
|Typical Aquifer in Thar Desert|
Pakistan's highly water stressed Punjab province is beginning recognize the need for replacing groundwater. Punjab Government is currently in the process of planning a project to recharge aquifers for groundwater management in the Province by developing the economical and sustainable technology and to recharge aquifer naturally and artificially at the available site across the Punjab. It has allocated Rs. 582.249 million to execute this project over four years.
Punjab Pilot Project:
The Punjab pilot project is intended to recharge groundwater by building flood water ponds in "old Mailsi Canal and supplement it by installing suitable recharging mechanism like recharging well as pilot project. Moreover to develop efficient and sustainable techniques for artificial recharge of Aquifer using surplus rain, flood and surface water and also strengthening the ground water monitoring network in Punjab as well as to identify the different potential feasible sites for artificial recharge."
Katas Raj Pond case in Pakistan Supreme Court has brought mass media attention to the nation's existential crisis with its water resource depletion. The country needs to urgently address this looming crisis with a multi-pronged effort. It needs to build large dams and recharge its groundwater reservoirs. At the same time, Pakistan needs to find ways to conserve and more efficiently use the water resources it has. The country needs to particularly focus on efficient farm irrigation and planting of less water intensive varieties of crops because the agriculture sector uses over 90% of all available water.
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