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Pakistan is part of:
Asia & Pacific · Southern Asia ·
Water Basins of Pakistan:
Aral Sea · BahuKalat-Rudkhanehye · Dasht · Helmand · Indus · Tarim ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Islamabad
Neighbouring Countries India, China, Afghanistan, Iran
Total Area 803,940 km2
  - Water 25,220 km2 (3.14%) / 314 m2/ha
  - Land 778,720 km2
Coastline 1,046 km
Population 165,935,100 (198 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.562 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 30.6 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $160,900 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $2,600
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 196,860 km2 (25.28%)
     - Arable 190,319 km2 (24.44%)
     - Permanent Crops 6,541 km2 (0.84%)
     - Irrigated 182,300 km2
  - Non cultivated 616,798 km2 (74.72%)
Average Annual RainfallD 494 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 233.8 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 169.39 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 96%
  - For Domestic Use n/a
  - For Industrial Use 2%
  - Per Capita 1,187 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 91%
     - Urban population 96%
     - Rural population 89%
  - Improved Sanitation 59%
     - Urban population 92%
     - Rural population 41%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

> Articles | Projects & Case studies | Publications & Web resources | Who is who | Maps
> Sector Assessment | Sector Coordination | Donor Profile

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Pakistan is one of the world’s most water-stressed countries. Pakistan has a semi-arid climate with an average rainfall of under 240 millimeters per year countrywide and internal renewable water resources of 55 cubic kilometers per year, which equals the amount of groundwater resources. Pakistan is dependent on a single river, the Indus, for its surface water, and is close to using all the available surface and groundwater to meet increased demands of its agricultural, domestic, and industrial sectors. Pakistan is expected to enter a condition of water scarcity by 2035.

Ninety percent of water in Pakistan’s rivers originates from northern mountainous watersheds. One of the most valuable functions of forests and rangelands in Pakistan is the sustained supply of sediment-free water for the generation of environmentally-friendly and cheap electricity and water for agriculture. The Indus is fed by snow-melt off the Himalayas in Indian-held Kashmir, and by river-flow from neighboring countries. The Indus Basin covers 71% of Pakistan and is home to the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system – covering 14 million hectares of barrages, canals, and watercourses. As a result of low efficiency in water delivery, the seasonal availability of water, and inadequate reservoirs, only 60% of the water in the system reaches the farms.

Agriculture is the biggest water user in the country, consuming an average of 96% of available water resources. Eighty-five percent of Pakistan’s cultivated land is irrigated, and demand for labor is 50% to 100% higher on irrigated land. Labor is provided by landless and near-landless laborers. Water drives the demand for labor and for more stable employment for those in the poorest sections of the rural economy.

Patterns of water use are causing environmental degradation (salinity and soil erosion), and inefficient water use causes lower agricultural productivity. Increasing numbers of livestock are stressing the Indus Basin, and the growth in private-sector development of groundwater has threatened water-table levels. Most major cities depend on tube wells for tapping local aquifers. Rapid urbanization is expected to create demand that exceeds supply. In addition, large quantities of untreated, often toxic industrial and municipal wastes are dumped into open drains and leach into the aquifers.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

Pakistan has no comprehensive water law defining rights to resources. Multiple studies have identified the need for formal, enforceable communal and individual property rights to water, and the government has drafted numerous water policy statements and prepared several water resource strategies. A 1991 Water Accord defines rights to water among the provinces, and the Canal and Drainage Act governs irrigation systems. Pakistan and India are signatories to the Indus Water Treaty, which governs use of Indus River water. The process of reaching agreement was arduous, but the two countries have abided by its terms.

As a matter of customary law, and consistent with principles of Islamic law, groundwater is owned by the person or entity that owns the land above it. In practice, the groundwater is owned by the person who operates the pump. Water in the Indus Basin canal irrigation system is considered state property until it enters a watercourse managed by a group of farmers and owned by them as common property. Water entering a private farmer’s land becomes the property of the farmer.

Institutional Framework

The Water and Power Development Authority (WPDA) is a semi-autonomous entity responsible for generation and distribution of power, irrigation, water supply and drainage, prevention of water-logging, and flood control. The Authority manages water-flow from reservoirs based on estimated need of the provinces, as identified by the Provincial Irrigation Departments. The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) is responsible for managing shared water issues among the provinces.

Government Reforms and Interventions

Pakistan has devoted substantial time and resources to determine how to reorient the government to manage its water resources. The government developed a Ten Year Perspective Plan (2001), a National Water Policy (2002), and the Pakistan Water Sector Strategy Study (2002). The key findings of these studies indicate a need for creation of a legal framework defining surface and groundwater rights; provisions for equitable water distribution and improvement of services; modernization and increase of infrastructure; and the development of a financially sustainable water system.

With World Bank funding, the government supported creation of the first Water Users Associations (WUAs) in 1981. By 1991 there were 17,000 WUAs covering 16% of watercourses and involving 85,000 farmers. With the support of the ADB, Pakistan undertook a 7-year Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project. The Ladies First Accessible Water for Entrepreneurial Women in Punjab Province brought water to 325 remote villages and engaged women to manage and maintain the projects.

The KPK government’s 7-year Swabi SCARP (Salinity Control And Rehabilitation Project), supported with funding and technical assistance from the ADB and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), established a drainage system for waterlogged areas, converted and renovated watercourses, formed WUAs, and introduced new techniques and technologies to improve agricultural production in relation to the increased water supply. Out of 933 WUAs formed, 903 signed Terms of Partnership agreements for watercourse remodeling and 903 watercourse renovation schemes were completed.

With support from ADB, the Punjab Irrigation and Power Department (PIPD) is implementing the Barani Integrated Water Resources Sector Project (BIWRSP). In Punjab Province about 19% of cultivable lands are in barani (rainfed) areas that suffer from water scarcity. The Project intends to increase crop and livestock productivity through irrigation development and increased access to water and sanitation. Activities will include: (1) the construction of dams and appurtenant structures to increase water availability; (2) watershed management to enhance dams’ life expectancy; (3) development of the rural water supply for communities in the vicinity of a dam; (4) development of community-managed irrigation distribution networks; (5) agriculture extension services to support the transition to irrigated agriculture; and (6) institutional support. To address the problem of sustainability and low economic returns observed in previous dam projects in barani areas, the Project will change the subsector implementation practices and follow an integrated approach, looking simultaneously at dam development, watershed management, and command area development. The Project also plans to support the devolution of the water scheme to organized water users and foster a demand-driven approach through the inclusion of social mobilization support.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Donor Interventions

More than 50 projects, funded by various donors, address water supply and sanitation in Pakistan. USAID and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are working with the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock on a 6-year (2004–2011) US $15 million project in Balochistan to improve water resource management that increases on-farm water-use efficiency. The project includes components to introduce water-efficient crops and new animal husbandry, feed and rangeland management practices. USAID plans to invest in the development of water storage, canals, and irrigation services to improve water management, especially of the Indus Basin Irrigation System. Programs will include rehabilitation and/or expansion of irrigation to help make Pakistan’s agricultural industry more stable and profitable. Assistance will be implemented primarily through provincial irrigation departments, thus helping build long-term capacity at the sub-national government level to manage water in a sustainable fashion. USAID is also concentrating efforts on providing safe water and sanitation facilities in rural areas.

The World Bank funded a 6-year (1998–2004) US $126 million National Drainage Programme to improve the irrigation and drainage system in Pakistan. The Programme’s objectives included governance, policy, and institutional reform. The Bank assessed performance at the end of the project in 2004 and rated the project unsatisfactory, in large measure due to lack of appreciation for centuries-old systems of water management, lack of accountability of government entities, and the need for a legal framework. The World Bank also prepared a comprehensive evaluation of the country’s water resources and the foundation for a strategic plan.


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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Pakistan

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Case studies in or about Pakistan

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5 most recently updated publications on Pakistan
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5 most popular publications on Pakistan
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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Pakistan

Who is Who

People working in Pakistan

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Organizations working in Pakistan
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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Pakistan


See also

External Resources

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Pakistan" on Wikipedia

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