Groundwater-livelihood-food security linkages-A case study from Punjab Pakistan

Ghulam Zakir-Hassan, Catherine Allan, J.F. Punthakey, Ghulam Shabir, Adnan Hassan

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Pakistan is 4th largest user of groundwater after India, USA and China where more than 90% drinking, almost 100% industrial and more than 40% irrigation water requirements are met from groundwater. Pakistan is the 8th largest food producing country where irrigated agriculture contributes more than 90% of Pakistan’s food production. Agriculture is the largest single sector which contributes 22% of GDP, employs about 45% of the overall labor force and generates over 60% of foreign exchange. Groundwater consists of 96% of planet’s unfrozen freshwater and globally 60% of it is used for agriculture, 20% for domestic and 20% for industry. Global climatic changes, seasonal/areal variations in rainfall patterns, uncertainty in river flows, glacier melting are the major challenges of water sector in Pakistan. Extreme hydro-climatic events like floods and droughts have disturbed the hydrologic-cycle posing severe impacts on water resources. To meet the ever-increasing challenges of food-security, fiber demands, cropping intensity has increased from 67% to 150% or even more in some areas which is a major driver for dependence on groundwater. Groundwater due its secured availability, easy access has become a source of livelihood and ensures food-security for a multitude of tiny farming communities. Groundwater resources are being rapidly exploited at an alarming and unsustainable rate in many areas in Pakistan. In Punjab province of Pakistan, about 1.2 million farmer tube wells are pumping groundwater to meet 40 to 50 % of crop water requirements at farm-gate which has put the aquifer under stress especially in sweet groundwater zones. About 3000 piezometers have been installed in the province to monitor the groundwater levels twice in a year. Research studies have indicated that activities like increasing cropping intensities, unplanned over pumpage, lack of awareness, use of chemicals in agriculture/food production, industrialization, urbanization, acidic rains due to air pollution, domestic waste, solid waste landfills, etc. are the major environmental threats to sustainable use of groundwater which are deteriorating its quality and quantity at very alarming rates. Abnormal lowering of water table in fresh groundwater areas, inter-mixing of saline and fresh groundwater, increase in cost of groundwater pumping due to increase in depth to water level, threats to agriculture due to secondary salinization etc. are the major consequences of ill- planning and over exploitation of groundwater reservoir. In this paper findings of various studies have been outlined to identify the critical areas and to suggest some management options for the replenishment of this fast depleting natural resource in Punjab.

Key words: Food-security, groundwater, livelihood, Punjab, Pakistan
1: Irrigation Research Institute (IRI), Govt. of the Punjab, Lahore 54500, Pakistan
2: School of Environmental Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW, 2640, Australia.
3: Institute for Land Water and Society (ILWS), Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW, 2640, Australia.
4: International Water Expert
*: Corresponding author:

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event47th IAH Congress 2021, Brazil - online , Brazil, Brazil
Duration: 22 Aug 202126 Aug 2021


Conference47th IAH Congress 2021, Brazil


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