A consensus on water
I was one of some 30 journalists from all parts of Pakistan who recently spent five days together in Swat to discuss water and flood-related issues. Swat was the place where one of the most devastating floods in the country’s history originated last year so it was a befitting venue for a talk on water and flood-related issues.
Almost every one of these journalists has covered and witnessed the devastation caused by the floods. The geographical areas that they covered might have been different but the miseries and their scale that the reporters based their stories upon were more or less the same.
We discussed the corruption, encroachments of river beds, bad managerial skills and many other such issues — however, none of this was new to us being journalists. What was however new was a consensus that journalists from Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reached on how such issues and problems needed to be dealt with.
Policy-makers in all four provinces have different arguments to oppose and support different dams. Sindh mistrusts Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa doesn’t agree with solutions that Balochistan suggests. The country suffers severe loadshedding and prolonged power outages but the policy-makers have yet to reach a consensus on how to augment the country’s water storage and hydel capacity.
The group of 30 journalists who had assembled in Swat did however do something different. There were heated debates between journalists from Sindh and journalists from Punjab. Journalists from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa didn’t agree with what journalists from Balochistan opined. But all of them, yes all of them, agreed to work as a group on water-related issues for one-year and highlight structural flaws in our water policy.
This wasn’t done to protect provincial water resources but to enhance the urgent need to enhance our water reservoirs on a national scale. All of these journalists will now do stories and make news packages to make people aware of the importance of water conservation, storage and at the same time highlighting flaws and faults in our management of this precious resource. How much this will impact our policy on water, I am not sure. But surely one lesson to learn is that why can’t our policy-makers learn from us and sit down under one roof and agree to a consensus and work for a common, shared objective, despite their obvious differences?