08/26/2014 04:54 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

Climate Change and Underground Water: A Need to Link Science With People

Water is life, however the way it is being used by humans and the scientific facts which informs how it is being diminished is no doubt a mystery for common people in Pakistan to be aware of. This is evident from the example of Rawalpindi city of Pakistan! Let's see how this mystery prevails.

Research in the district Rawalpindi shows that abnormal rain patterns in this region during 1996-2005 shapely decline underground water. Rains in this region were intense and quick run-off didn't contribute in the recharge of underground water. Research findings show that approximately 7 to 10 feet of underground water has been reduced every year within 1996-2005. Only in the Gawal Mandi area of district Rawalpindi, underground water depleted from approximately 25 ft in 1960 to 275 ft in 2005. This is such an alarming situation, yet remained unfocused by both public and private sector. The knowledge of a common citizen, who in particular is illiterate, is completely an out-of-the-question talking point.

Why can we call this phenomenon a mystery? Unfortunately, for the people of Rawalpindi, only the declining underground water is not a single alarming situation. Water contamination in the remaining available resource is another big issue. Being one of most populated cities of the country, Rawalpindi puts immense pressure on the scared water resources. On the other hand, local communities are not fully aware that they use contaminated drinking water.

Erosion around Rawal Lake, which is the main source of water supply for Rawalpindi, has badly contaminated the drinking water quality. In two administrative units -- i.e. the Union Council 6 and 9 of Rawalpindi -- water quality tests revealed that 75 percent and 100 percent of the water samples being tested were found to be unfit for drinking purposes. Another fact is that, almost everyday locals dig boreholes in the city. The majority of them don't feel urgency to pretest water quality. Strangely, despite the worst water quality and quantity situation, no such government laws exist to deal with the underground water situation.

Studies have also found a strong correlation between financial positions and literacy rates of the people of Rawalpindi with waterborne diseases that prevail in this area. One study confirms that waterborne diseases like diarrhea and jaundice are more prevalent among individuals having poor financial positions and low literacy rates. 92.6% of the target audiences during a survey reported cases of diarrhea who belongs to poor families, followed by jaundice as reported by 16.7% females and 15.9% males. The Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC, 2008) has also confirmed similar correlation among financial situation of an individual with hygiene practices and prevalence of water borne diseases. Diarrhea was observed to be the major waterborne disease constituting 41% of the population with poor hygiene practices.

Climate scientists claim climate change is a major reason behind changing weather patterns. However, due to mismanagement of water resources and little attention by the government towards water storage and recycling, the people of Rawalpindi have always been in a struggle to find clean drinking water.

This is unfortunate that common people are rarely aware of such little-discussed issues in public which the science community has already explored. People in Pakistan have many problems to live with -- poverty, political crisis, terrorism and food insecurity. The dilemma is the lack of access of scientific knowledge among the majority of population which keeps them at bay to talk about issues such as the less recharge of underground water, factors which contribute to abnormal rains and how poor economic and literacy conditions impact local families.

The Government of Pakistan, no doubt, needs to act seriously on the issue of underground water. The government needs to restore the Climate Change Ministry, which they demoted in the recent past. Restoring the Ministry can help mobilize the resources through local and international support, promoting scientific studies on issues like the underground water, the way climate change affects underground water and resilience common people can build to access clean drinking water.