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The Perils of Denial: Challenges for a Water-Secure Pakistan

Pakistan currently faces a water security crisis with serious social and economic repercussions. Water shortages are causing social unrest in Karachi and elsewhere, making governance increasingly difficult. Economic growth is limited because water resources are insufficient to supply competing sectors. Water is also a source of transboundary conflict with India, which controls the flow of the Indus River into Pakistan. All of these conditions serve to destabilize Pakistan and to provide fertile ground for insurgency. This chapter considers some of the root causes of water insecurity in Pakistan: poor groundwater management and monitoring; overreliance on dams as the sole water management solution; and lack of control over riparian freshwater sources. The authors propose a comprehensive groundwater policy, soft engineering solutions like wetlands as natural flood buffers, and reopening conversations about the terms of the Indus Basin Water Treaty as first steps toward improving Pakistan’s water security.