Perspectives on Pakistan
Pakistan’s water worries
Buried within Foreign Policy’s latest Failed States Index (Pakistan is in 10th place, though its overall score at 104.1 compared to 103.8 in 2008 suggests a far slower rate of decline than might have been expected given its troubles over the past year) is a short article worth reading about its looming water crisis.
“The country’s troubles today pale compared with what it might face 25 years from now. When it comes to the stability of one of the world’s most volatile regions, it’s the fate of the Himalayan glaciers that should be keeping us awake at night,” says author Stephan Faris. “In the mountainous area of Kashmir along and around Pakistan’s contested border with India lies what might become the epicentre of the problem.”
But there’s still no real sign of it getting the attention it deserves, despite its obvious potential not only to stoke tensions between India and Pakistan, but also to create water and food shortages and flash floods.
Some years back, I saw first hand the power of flooding in Himalayan rivers while driving from Srinagar to Leh — the same strategic road Pakistan tried to close with shelling in the Kargil war. Shortly before we arrived in Leh the entire road bridge — a proper heavy concrete road bridge — had been swept away, closing the road. Not even the might of the Indian army, which had scaled the mountains above Kargil in part to defend that road, could get it open again.
(Photos: On the Srinagar to Leh road, summer, 2006)