An early onset of summer is blamed for the strain on Pakistan’s water supplies. From mid-March higher than normal temperatures have been recorded. At the same time, crucial snow-melt is less in quantity and later than normal.
The water shortages are estimated to be approximately 27 percent below 10-year historical levels. This has resulted in a water deficit in advance of the Kharif season with an estimated 30 percent shortage in the Indus system and 10 percent shortage in the Jhelum system. Kharif crops are planted at this time of year in advance of the monsoon season which runs from April to November, depending on location. The shortage of water will affect grain harvesting in six months.
Officials of the Indus River System Authority have confirmed that the capacity of the Mangla Dam is at 436,482,000 cubic meters of its total 8.6 billion cubic meter capacity. Mangla Lake is mostly rain-fed and the lack of rain has resulted in the shortages at the dam.
In addition, officials have cited both a shortage of snow and its altitude as contributing to the crisis. During the winter, there was a 29 percent drop from an average of 50 inches. That snow fell in higher altitudes where even warmer temperatures are required to stimulate snow-melt.
Earlier in March, the country was reporting water shortages of up to 52 percent, with disruptions in crucial services.
At the time, demand in Punjab province was more than 2 times supply and the situation was somewhat worse in Sindh province. The water shortage will have an affect on the country’s wheat production capability.
The crisis is causing civil demonstrations. There are warnings of local feuds and internal disturbances as farmers continue to demand release of adequate supply to support their livelihoods.