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Pakistan’s Water Crisis Is a Ticking Time Bomb

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When it comes to Pakistan, President Trump’s Twitter feud with one of America’s most important partners in the fight against terrorism has dominated the news. But beneath the headlines, a massive water crisis is unfolding that has profound implications for the country’s stability and security. Rapid urbanization and conflict combined with corruption, crime and years of mismanagement have left a massive proportion of the population without access to clean water. And now, this long-festering crisis threatens to upend Pakistan’s politics.

Perhaps the strangest thing about Pakistan’s water crisis is that until recently, the country had been doing well in connecting more of its citizens to water supply and sanitation networks. From 1990 to 2015, the percentage of the country’s population with access to clean water increased from 86 percent to 91 percent. But in a reversal of what happens in most countries, almost all of this improvement occurred in rural areas—the percentage of urban residents with access to clean water actually declined from 97 to 94 percent over the same period.

Only a few other countries, most of them war-torn places like Syria and Gaza, have experienced similar reversals in providing clean water to cities. And while the causes of Pakistan’s water crisis are complex, the country’s political instability has played a key part. Pakistan is urbanizing at a rapid rate of over 3 percent annually—the highest rate in South Asia. The causes of this fast-moving urbanization are deeply troubling, with climate change and the fight against Muslim extremists acting as key drivers. Given this ever-quickening tide, Pakistan’s cities have had trouble providing basic services, including housing and water, to new urban residents.

But the problem is worse in the water sector because rampant corruption and mismanagement keeps prices high and coverage rates low. Because Pakistan’s cities can’t keep up with growing water demand from new residents, many urban-dwellers are forced to buy water from private tanker trucks. And because tankers often bring water from far away, prices are high, and tanker “mafias” raise them still further by illegally siphoning off water from municipal sources and reselling it at extortionate prices. These criminal gangs represent a serious challenge to Pakistan’s local authorities. As a Karachi official admitted, “These illegal hydrants are established by armed people, so it is very difficult for . . . staff to just dismantle them.” But authorities have also been accused of turning a blind eye to tanker mafias: no less an authority than the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court was quoted as saying, “there is someone behind the scenes at work who is minting money from [the tanker mafias].”

The result of this corruption and mismanagement is a serious and growing lack of clean water for many of Pakistan’s cities. According to figures presented to the Pakistani Supreme Court, 83 percent of water supplies in Sindh, Pakistan’s second-most-populous region, are contaminated with sewage and industrial waste, with the percentage rising to over 90 percent in Karachi, the country’s largest city and financial center. Even worse, up to 60 million people across the country may have been exposed to deadly arsenic leaking into Pakistan’s groundwater supplies. Late last year, the issue exploded into popular view when the Supreme Court ordered Sindh officials to present a plan for resolving the province’s water crisis. The Court’s Chief Justice minced no words, warning officials that “The water crisis issue in Pakistan is turning into a bomb.”

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s water bomb has multiple triggers, and if it explodes it may well send the country into an even greater political crisis. In addition to its water quality woes, Pakistan is at risk of growing water scarcity as a result of climate change, which some observers have warned could exacerbate existing insurgencies and make a military coup more likely. Nor are the consequences of a water crisis confined to Pakistan’s domestic security. During a December conference, a Chinese diplomat reportedly complained that the country’s chronic water shortages were hindering Chinese investment as part of the China—Pakistan Economic Corridor, the country’s highest-profile development project.

Pakistan’s local authorities appear to be taking the risk of water crisis seriously. Following the Supreme Court’s order, Sindh’s Chief Minister pledged to act quickly, promising residents that “It is our prime duty to take necessary measures so that people right from Kashmore to Karachi drink safe water.” But some national leaders have appeared hesitant to acknowledge the implications of water crisis for the country’s security. During a November 2017 international water conference, Sindh’s governor, who serves a representative of the central government, bafflingly stated that “Water is a very low priority” for the government. “Terrorism,” he went on to say, “is a way bigger issue than the water crisis.”

If Pakistan is to tackle its water woes, attitudes like this will have to change. For the United States, such reluctance is concerning, and adds other set of risk factors to an already difficult relationship with a volatile nuclear power. Unfortunately, Washington’s current spat with Islamabad leaves it with few good options to make the case that providing basic services, especially water, are essential to maintaining Pakistan’s security and stability. But it should try. The U.S. government’s recently-released Global Water Strategy prioritizes investment in water and sanitation as a tool to advance U.S. national interests, and can be used as a framework to help Pakistan address its water crisis. As President Trump himself acknowledged, “Water may be the most important issue we face for the next generation.”

national interest



23 Comments on "Pakistan’s Water Crisis Is a Ticking Time Bomb"

  1. Sissyfuss on Wed, 7th Feb 2018 11:22 pm 

    Pakistans predicament sounds positively Darwinian. That is, if Darwin had had the bomb.

  2. Davy on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 4:55 am 

    Pakistan is a failed state in the making. It has all the variables of decline especially a huge population that is still growing. Water may one day be the weak link. Being a nuclear state makes this a matter of importance to all of us.

  3. Davy on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 5:54 am 

    “Trader: “Stock Slump Clears The Decks For The Real Storm”
    https://tinyurl.com/y8vssoam

    “By Bloomberg Markets Live commentator Christopher Antsey”

    “It’s been said of the Roman army that their training drills were like bloodless battles, and their battles like bloody drills. Something similar may be true of the market this year: the sell-off across asset classes is like a tough drill that will leave it in a stronger position to cope with the real battle ahead — the reversal of QE. The near 7% tumble in the S&P 500 Index from its record high has been termed a “healthy correction” by so many that it’s practically a cliche by now. But as short-volatility trades clear out, a swathe of speculative and leveraged positions will have been removed. Retail investors will also have had the fear of the gods put in them: clients at TD Ameritrade had boosted equity allocations for 11 straight months through December, pushing the brokerage’s Investor Movement Index, which tracks client positioning, to a record. And traders are unwinding positions at a time when liquidity is still abundant — the big three central banks are, on a collective basis, still expanding their balance sheets. Contraction probably won’t begin until October at the earliest, when the European Central Bank could end its asset purchases. In addition, the shakeout comes at a time when the underlying economic fundamentals are solid — the world is still enjoying the glow of a synchronous expansion. The IMF less than three weeks ago boosted its global forecasts for 2018, seeing the fastest growth since 2011. So even though the sell-off in stocks and bonds in recent weeks will end up being painful for many, it will build up some scar tissue for the far more serious challenge to come: coping with higher borrowing costs as the unprecedented balance-sheet unwind begins in earnest, removing a backstop for markets that’s been there for a decade now.”

  4. Davy on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 5:54 am 

    So the stock route has abated. Another flash of decline has stabilized. The financial system is again stronger than I believed it was. Yet, as this little article above reports the real test is at the end of 2018 when real balance sheet unwind starts. Rates have been going up but soon significant liquidity will be withdrawn by central banks in their effort to normalize their balance sheets. Is this new era of managed markets functional? Remember all this financial market activity from the top is all still an experiment. We are all captive to it and there is nowhere to run or hide.

    I am less pessimistic about peak oil and more optimistic about renewables these day. Peak oil is not dead just dormant. Climate change is probably still longer term. We are in a 1% warmer world but this is still manageable. Populations are still on a dangerous trend but are a longer term danger. Do we have another decade or two of status quo? This year may be the year we find that out. My feelings the economy is the near term danger until these longer term dangers solidify.

    For me the economy is the real factor because we need high productivity to battle all the other problems that are coalescing into predicaments but longer term predicaments. If we can avoid war and no black swans swoop in maybe we have more time to prepare and enjoy life. I am not going to take away a sudden collapse anytime because we are a complex system at the edge of thresholds with switching points or flip points. Most of these critical thresholds we don’t understand. We are a late term civilization but we have enormous productive power spread over the entire world. This creates dangers but also allows for near term resilience. Look at it as a fortification for an oncoming onslaught.

    The sad comment on all this is we are still doing very little to increase resilience and sustainability in regards to a long term future. What we are doing is maintain the status quo through growth but with too much debt and malinvestment. Paradoxically the act of increasing “real” resilience and sustainability would go against the trend of efficiency and the high returns necessary for growth. This is a paradox of modern growth. Growth that gives modern life will kill modern life. What this says is we have no choice but to double down on the status quo or lose it. The status quo requires what we are doing regardless if it has no future.

    This is the nature of Ponzi schemes. Think of how Madoff felt once he was established and look upon as a financial wonder. He must have wanted to be real not a scheme. Humans are now a vast Ponzi scheme of linear growth in a cyclical world. From our short term mortal viewpoints how much more time do we have? I have no optimism for a future longer term without significant pain. The changes needed are so drastic. We have gone too far so the road back to sustainability in the traditional sense is gone. Yet, do we have a decades or two left? This would still be a gift. A few years ago I felt we had 3-5 years now I see 15-20 albeit with a life of living next to a cliff.

  5. Davy on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 6:14 am 

    “Tesla Building 250MW “Virtual Solar Power Plant” Using 50,000 Homes In Australia”
    https://tinyurl.com/y8t9kpn5

    “After building the world’s largest lithium battery in Australia nearly 40 days ahead of schedule, Tesla has announced plans to build the world’s largest “virtual power plant” by outfitting 50,000 homes in South Australia with solar panels and Tesla battery storage units over the next four years, slashing participants’ energy bill by 30%. Beginning with a trial of 1100 Housing Trust properties, a 5kW solar panel system and 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed at no charge to the household and financed through the sale of electricity. Following the trial, which has now commenced, systems are set to be installed at a further 24,000 Housing Trust properties, and then a similar deal offered to all South Australian households, with a plan for at least 50,000 households to participate over the next four years. -ourenergyplan.sa.gov.au Over 6,500 households have already applied for the 250MW program (which will provide the panels for free), tweeted South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill on Monday.”

    “Off to a good start Tesla’s lithium battery storage project has already proven its worth; after the 129 MWh installation was activated on December 2, the Loy Yang coal power plant – one of the largest in Australia, went offline – depriving the grid of 560 MW of electricity, enough for 170,000 homes. Within 140 milliseconds, the Tesla “Hornsdale Power Reserve Battery System” kicked in, providing the grid with 100 MW of power – buying grid operators enough time to reroute other power sources and make up for the shortfall. Utility customers were largely unaffected. “That’s a record and the national operators were shocked at how quickly and efficiently the battery was able to deliver this type of energy into the market,” said State energy minister, Tom Koutsantonis, who added “Until now, if we got a call to turn on our emergency generators it would take us 10 to 15 minutes to get them fired up and operating which is a record time compared to other generators.”

  6. fmr-paultard on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 8:10 am 

    Islamic republic of pakistan

    In 2013, prominent social activist Sabeen Mahmud held a “Pyaar ho jaane do” (‘Let love happen’) protest in the southern port city of Karachi, countering calls for a ban on the celebration.

    Mahmud received several death threats for her defence of the day. In April 2015, she was shot dead by assailants on a motorcycle, minutes after hosting a controversial talk on ethnic Baloch rights.

  7. Sissyfuss on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 9:11 am 

    Davy, Tesla lost 2 billion dollars last year and gas never made a profit since going public in 2010. Musk, not Trump is the real P. T. Barnum.

  8. peakyeast on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 10:11 am 

    No wonder that Musk is pacing SpaceX. – If he (Musk) is quick enough he may relocate to Mars before he creditors gets suspicious. 😀

    King of Mars and bankrupt on earth. What a plan !

  9. Keith McClary on Thu, 8th Feb 2018 9:03 pm 

    peakyeast:
    Has Musk been seen since the Falcon Heavy launch?
    :^)

  10. fmr-paultard on Fri, 9th Feb 2018 11:37 am 

    On This Day…
    Feb 09, 2014: Maan, Syria
    Islamic extremists overrun a Shiite
    village and massacre residents: 40 Killed

  11. Norman Pagett on Fri, 9th Feb 2018 12:02 pm 

    in every aspect of unfolding global crises—the triumvirate fo chaos is there:

    Overpopulation

    Energy depletion

    Climate change

    try to deal with one and the other two rear up and bite you in the ass

    dealing with all three present insurmountable obstacles

    Pakistan is overpopulated, its climate is changing and there isnt enough energy in the system to rectify any problem

  12. fmr-paultard on Fri, 9th Feb 2018 12:24 pm 

    Let’s hope Pakistan turned into a killing zone.

    watch?v=hmr9Zlh0YxE

    this similar scenario was recently played out the hotel in Kabul, afghanistan. it could happen anywhere.

  13. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 3:52 am 

    I am less pessimistic about peak oil and more optimistic about renewables these day. Peak oil is not dead just dormant. Climate change is probably still longer term. We are in a 1% warmer world but this is still manageable. Populations are still on a dangerous trend but are a longer term danger.

    Finally managed to talk some sense into Doomer-Dave.

  14. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 3:56 am 

    Let’s hope Pakistan turned into a killing zone.

    Just like you folks intentionally turned Iraq and Syria into killing zones, eh? Are we powerful or what!?

    You and millimind are a dangerous insane nuts, supertard.

  15. Davy on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 6:34 am 

    “Finally managed to talk some sense into Doomer-Dave.”

    Neder, I have been talking sense into you hence the reduction in your outrageous claims. Many of your outrageous claims do not stand the sniff test and are easy to moderate. I show honesty and balance you show agenda with a personal victory obsession.

  16. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 6:44 am 

    Neder, I have been talking sense into you hence the reduction in your outrageous claims.

    Name me one “outrageous claim” of mine, you talked some sense into. There isn’t any.

    I show honesty and balance you show agenda with a personal victory obsession.

    Your agenda is protecting the status quo of the US empire and covering up all the cumulative lies of said empire. I’m talking about survival of my kind of people, under dire threat of your empire.

    Talking about victory, Holland currently leading in the medal table.lol Won’t last long though.

  17. Davy on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 7:03 am 

    “Name me one “outrageous claim” of mine, you talked some sense into. There isn’t any”
    Neder, it’s all there on the board. Most of our arguments/discussions are me moderating your outrageous claims. Start spewing some outrageous claims and I will say I told you so. You are one big history revision and fantasy future. I also find some of your comments very important unlike billyT, grehggieT and mousie1 vomit. You actually do contribute valuable information so on balance you are good for this board. If we could only get back to Arthur that used to give valuable comments without the chauvinism.

    “Your agenda is protecting the status quo of the US empire and covering up all the cumulative lies of said empire. I’m talking about survival of my kind of people, under dire threat of your empire.”
    My agenda is moderating extremist anti-American claims. I have a backbone unlike many Americans here who let nutter wack jobs walk all over them. If you are going to be anti-American do it with respect and be moderate about it or I will neuter your ass. I promise! I keep my promises just ask BillyT. I am on an American critical site and show plenty of criticism of the bad going on in the US. This is why I am here along with doom and prep issues related to planetary destruction and energy issues. I am broadly against expansionary US policy. I want to go back to the basics of the constitution. I want the power centers drained and States to become more independent in a process of decentralization. You try so hard to paint me into that Empire picture because my moderation is a threat to your radical Eurotard and racial extremism.

    “Talking about victory, Holland currently leading in the medal table.lol Won’t last long though.”
    Those who are the most insecure and unsure of themselves talk like that on a repetitive regular basis. The occasional self-love talk is ok but neder you are off the board stuck on yourself.

  18. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 7:42 am 

    Neder, it’s all there on the board. Most of our arguments/discussions are me moderating your outrageous claims. Start spewing some outrageous claims and I will say I told you so. You are one big history revision and fantasy future. I also find some of your comments very important unlike billyT, grehggieT and mousie1 vomit. You actually do contribute valuable information so on balance you are good for this board.

    Translation: I can’t name a single “outrageous claim” Clog made I have “moderated”.

    My agenda is moderating extremist anti-American claims. I have a backbone unlike many Americans here who let nutter wack jobs walk all over them.

    There are no “anti-Americans” here. But the majority here sees through the actions of your Washington-1%, aimed at planetary conquest and at the same time prepare for the downfall of whitey, an aim you as self-described “1-percenter” quietly supports, although you won’t admit it.

    The majority of the American population is very skeptical towards Washington, regarding immigration and foreign policy, although most do not understand why (((Washington))) is behaving like it does:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRlatDWqh0o

    If we could only get back to Arthur that used to give valuable comments without the chauvinism.

    I smell the opportunity to finally escape from the US empire, which requires some limited “Bongo-language”, without estranging from America, which is what I explicitly do not want to see happening, but which could happen if the European-Americans fail to revolt. But most Americans think they have Europe in their pocket, so a limited “humiliation” every now and then is required to drive home the fact that the Mother Civilization is back and that Russia is impatiently waiting to be let in. That’s a major continental European option.

    The good news for European-America is that they have a European way out of its multicultural mess. We are going to accept you (those who secede) as “full-blown Europeans” on the very moment you redefine yourself as Europeans (of the American variety), just like Serbs and Croats redefined themselves as such after the End of the Yugoslav Era. There won’t be a certification process with exams or anything like that. You’re “in”, just like that.

  19. Davy on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 8:24 am 

    Bullshit nedernnazi, this site is predominantly anti-American extremist. Many Americans here likewise hate the US and come here to grovel in self hate. How the hell can there be a proper discussion on how to fix things with the narrow minded attitudes of hate driven agenda? This hate is focused by you, billy, and your dumbass enabler greggie. Instead of good constructive debate there is a dump of hate propaganda out of you all. What makes this even more disturbing is the parallel self promotion. I can’t stand asswipes who are stuck on themselves. You, billy, greggie, and the millennial waste case anymouse1 have turned this forum into a sewer gutter along with back slapping porn.

  20. Davy on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 8:27 am 

    Nedernazi, your Eurotard spew is little more than fantasy of fringe Eurotardism of extremist like you. It is people like you that brought the world the wonders of WWI and WWII.

  21. Cloggie on Sat, 10th Feb 2018 9:58 am 

    It is people like you that brought the world the wonders of WWI and WWII.

    For you there will be no place in the European world. You have been weighed and found wanting.

    WW1 was Britain (now fortunately leaving the European world, making room for Russia):

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/britain-masterminded-ww1/

    WW2 was you, or you owners rather:

    https://documents1940.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/ww2-for-dummies/

    The fact that you refuse to discuss WW2 but continue to use the word “nazi” as the little coward sniper that you are, proves that you secretly conclude that I am right.

  22. Kenz300 on Sun, 11th Feb 2018 11:45 am 

    Too many people demand too many resources, yet the worlds population grows by 80 million every year

    Every problem is made worse by the worlds growing population.

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