Terming water crisis as Pakistan's biggest challenge, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday appealed to Pakistanis living abroad to donate towards building dams in the country.
In a brief televised address to the nation, he urged those living in the United States and Europe, for donations to the dams fund set up by the Supreme Court. "There is no question that we are faced with several significant problems," he said as he began the address, his second since assuming power on August 18.
"Our debt today stands at Rs 30,000 billion but the biggest problem we currently face is the water crisis.
"When Pakistan was made, every Pakistani had 5600 cubic metres of water. Today that stands at only 1000 cubic metres."
"We have storage capacity of only 30 days for water when the safe period for water storage is 120 days. India has a capacity of 90 days. This is why making the dam for us is so important," the Dawn newspaper quoted Mr Khan as saying.
Warning of the rapid depletion in Pakistan's water resources, the cricketer-turned-politician said the country would face drought-like conditions by 2025 if immediate steps were not taken.
"I want to commend Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar [for starting the dams fund], but this was not his job," he said.
"This was the job of civilian leaders who knew this was going to swell into a crisis but did nothing to thwart it.
"I want to take over the fund-raising and want overseas Pakistanis to contribute like they used to do for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, he said.
The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre is a chain of research-oriented oncology hospitals in Lahore and Peshawar founded by Mr Khan.
The prime minister asked all overseas Pakistanis to make as many donations as they can to the dams fund in dollars to plug the country's depleting foreign exchange reserves as well as provide funding to start building dams, which he said he would personally oversee.
"I will safeguard your donations [against misuse]," he promised.
"If every overseas Pakistani donates $1,000, we will have enough to build the dams ourselves," the prime minister said.
"This fund will only be used for building dams. I know not every overseas Pakistani will be able to give $1,000, especially the ones working in the Middle East. To them, I would say that donate as much as you can. But the overseas Pakistanis in Europe and the United States, I want them to send at least $1,000 or even more if they can," he said.
The prime minister cited the example of Egypt, which he said had launched a similar drive to build dams using its own resources.
"They were not getting any external loans; no one will give us any loans from outside either," he said. "We already have so many loans that we are finding hard to repay, so no one is going to loan us anymore. We alone will have to build this dam, and we can. We just have to make up our minds."
"I promise to you that I will safeguard your money," Mr Khan added.