FAISALABAD: The budget allocation for water supply and drainage in the Punjab has increased five-fold in the last four years, Minister for Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Malik Tanveer Aslam said at a seminar at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad on Thursday.
The seminar was organised by the UAF and the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) at the New Senate Hall.
Commissioner Momin Agha gave the keynote address and Vice Chancellor Iqrar Ahmad Khan highlighted the importance of ensuring supply of safe drinking water. Faisalabad DCO Salman Ghani, Toba Tek Singh DCO Amir Ijaz Akber, Additional District Collector Malik Awais and Chiniot ADC Sanaullah gave presentations on the Water and Sanitation Roadmap 2020-25.
Minister Tanveer Aslam said Rs62.7 billion had been allocated for water supply and drainage in the current financial year. The government recognised provision of safe water and sanitation services as one of the largest challenges in the coming years, he said. “We can overcome this with the efforts of experts, policymakers, academics and other stakeholders.”
He said the largest gap was on maintenance and expansion fronts. “This can be bridged with solid strategies.”
The minister stressed the need to revisit policies, mandate and structure of the WASA and the TMAs in five cities with a view to introduce autonomy and a performance-based system.
He spoke about the need to focus budget support to the sector and to update the financial management system in Water and Public Health Engineering Departments. “The sector needs a public-private model,” the minister said. TMAs could play a proactive role in involving the private sector in this regard, he said.
Commissioner Momin Agha said that the government had spent billions of rupees on water supply and drainage, yet issues relating to water and sanitation kept getting worse. “We are building a solid strategy to provide a state-of-the-art water and sanitation system for every corner of Faisalabad division.”
Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan stressed the need to establish a working group of experts from the UAF, the WASA and other institutes to work on challenges of water supply and sanitation.
He said a century ago, most of Faisalabad was desert-like. “It became fertile after the canal irrigation system was introduced.” He said water scarcity was now wreaking havoc on the country’s agriculture sector.
He said every household in Australia had set up rainwater tanks on their rooftops. “A similar model needs to be established in Pakistan.”
Faculty of Agriculture Engineering Dean Allah Bukhsh said rainwater technology must be used for irrigation and ground water recharge purposes. Modern irrigation methods like drip irrigation could be used, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2016.
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