Drought-Stricken Pakistan Receives Heaviest Snowfall in 48 Years

Pakistan is seeing an unusually wet winter this year after a very long drought. The country's northern areas received up to 1.8 and 2.1 m (6 and 7 feet) snowfall in January and the first week of February 2019, the heaviest in 48 years. Other parts of the country have seen torrential rains and flooding that required launching of relief efforts by Pakistani military and national and provincial disaster management agencies.

Pakistan Rain and Snow. Source: AccuWeather
Abdul Wali Yousafzai, a senior officer in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa irrigation department told Anadolu Agency that the "snowfall and rain will not only help to raise our water table but also be beneficial for our forests that had been affected by drought".  Prime Minister Imran Khan also welcomed it as "a blessing from God".  "The rainfall will raise the water table while the snow will melt into our river. It's a blessing from God," he said.

Unusually wet weather in arid Balochistan has caused deaths, injuries, property losses and displacement of people. At least 13 people are dead and dozens have been injured in the province. In addition, 1,970 houses having collapsed, 565 buildings partially damaged and 227 shops destroyed, according to Balochistan Disaster Management Agency.

Lack of rain and snow has caused recurring droughts in Pakistan since 2000 hitting hard the local population in many parts of Pakistan, Islamic Relief NGO reported February 11. The situation since 2013 has been particularly alarming due to 74% decrease in rainfall impacting hard on water management, agriculture, livestock, health, food security and livelihoods. It is in this context that the heavy snow and rains are being welcomed in the country. This offers at least temporary relief in a drought-stricken land.

The big picture is that Pakistan remains beset by a severe water crisis that could pose an existential threat if nothing is done to deal with it.  The total per capita water availability is about 900 cubic meters per person, putting the country in the water-stressed category. Agriculture sector uses about 95% of the available water. There are significant opportunities to achieve greater efficiency by using drip irrigation systems being introduced in Punjab. The New Water Policy of 2018 is a good start but it requires continued attention with greater investments and focus to deal with all aspects of the crisis.

Here's a video discussion on the subject:

https://youtu.be/nrfF3ppBzpo





Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Winter Sports in Pakistan

Groundwater Depletion in Pakistan

Water Scarce Pakistan

Cycles of Drought and Floods in Pakistan

Pakistan to Build Massive Dams

Dust Bowl in Thar Desert Region

Dasht River in Balochistan

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Experts expect bumper crop in #Pakistan's South #Punjab region after unprecedented winter rains. The under-cultivation area for #wheat has increased to 6,594,000 acres of land this year compared to 6,507,000 acres last year. #agriculture #water https://nation.com.pk/18-Mar-2019/experts-hope-bumper-crop-in-south-punjab


Water in #Tarbela to touch dead level but more snowmelt to help. Reservoir had sufficient level of #water in January onward due to more #rain. From Jan 29, #IRSA transferred rainfall’s benefit to the provinces by reducing water shortages from 38 to 32% https://www.dawn.com/news/1470142

#Pakistan farmers rejoice as heavy rains raise hopes for bumper #wheat #harvest in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa #KP. #agriculture https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/441443-farmers-rejoice-as-heavy-rains-raise-hopes-for-bumper-harvest
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan set for bumper wheat crop this season in wake of belated rains

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/446979-pakistan-set-for-bumper-wheat-crop-this-season-in-wake-of-belated-rains

Pakistan is likely to have a fairly good wheat crop this year as belated rainfalls and unexpected snowfalls replenished water supplies for winter crops, official data showed on Thursday.

However, conclusive forecasts could be made by end of the current month.

Indus River System Authority (Irsa) revised down water shortage for winter crops to less than 30 percent from 38 percent earlier projected for the October-March period due to below normal rains in the October-December period that dampened outlook for wheat and other crops.

More than expected snowfall and belated rains replenished water supplies. Rabi shortfall is likely to drastically come down owing to better river water availability.

Extraordinary long cold weather and wet conditions provide excellent conditions for wheat crop.

The positive impact of such conditions outweighed sporadic negative effects.

There have been several rain spells coupled with hailstorms since mid-January. Inundation of fields led to yellowing of leafs which is basically an indication of zinc deficiency. Such conditions used to be witnessed in paddy fields where abundance of water used to create zinc deficiency. Leaf rust disease in wheat fields in several northern and central districts in patches was also an outcome of such peculiar weather conditions in which cold temperatures, cloudy days and high humidity provide perfect recipe for spread of rust.

Windy conditions in the last few days are, however, adding to the miseries of farmers as they result in lodging of standing wheat crop in various districts.

The flattened wheat plants could reduce yield at an advance stage.

Sowing of sugarcane has been delayed due to wet conditions and it is feared that most of the crop would be delayed. Planting of spring corn is also facing delays as sowing is not possible in the wet fields. Harvesting of potatoes also came to standstills due to persistent wet weather. In some areas, it is being reported that ripen potatoes are spoiled because of soaked soil.

Sowing of water melon also got affected as a result of sustained rainy weather. Planting of peanut is also done in March but could not be initiated due to unfavourable weather.

The rare weather swing — from dry in early Rabi season to wet conditions – may have some implications for wheat but overall it supports agronomy of the crop. Rains also help address water shortage both for wheat and gram crops as well. The overall impact, however, is yet to be assessed by the official quarters.

From March 24, it is likely that mercury would surely surpass 30-centigrade threshold, which is not good for wheat. Till end of March, temperature should be below that for optimal maturity of crop. A weather alert said a heat wave is being anticipated as an anti cyclone is forming over South Pakistan, due to which hot winds would travel from Indian state of Rajasthan to South Punjab and Sindh.

The hot northeasterly winds would be responsible for increase in day temperatures between March 26 and 30. South Punjab and many parts of Sindh would see steep rise and maximum temperature may reach 38°C-40°C, paving way for extremely uneasy weather conditions which may not good for wheat and other crops.

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