KARACHI: We cannot look at the issue of water in isolation, said former governor of State Bank of Pakistan at the 3rd Karachi International Water Conference – The Future of Water, organised by the Hisaar Foundation on Tuesday. “We do not have a water crisis; we have a failure of governance with regard to water issues.”
In a session, titled, ‘The architects of water economy in Pakistan’, wherein stakeholders, such as government institutions, commercial banks and international players shared their understanding and analysis, Dr Hussain said that the demand for water is changing from cereal purposes to meat, poultry and fish, adding that meat demands a lot more water.
He complained that the strategies to tackle the issue are present, but there is a huge gap between the policies and their implementation. “Feudal lords are given direct access to water from canals, which is against any policy laid down in the Sindh irrigation department,” he said, adding that these landlords need to be charged the market price for the water they consume.
Echoing Dr Hussain’s sentiment, Pakistan Business Council (PBC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ehsan Malik said that in order to manage something as valuable as water, it needs to be measurable and in order to value something as essential as water, it needs to have a price tag.
He disclosed that PBC conducted a study where it was learnt that $23 billion worth of economic activity is lost as canals are only 33% efficient. “A $2 billion food trade deficit for an agrarian economy is absolutely ridiculous,” he said expressing his dismay at the findings.
“Wherever there is water, there is light; wherever there is light, there is life,” said Dr Salman Shah, former finance minister, adding that there are more ‘water black holes’ than there are areas without electricity. “Water black holes are areas where we have failed to provide viable irrigation systems, which are directly linked to poverty since a lack of irrigation means a lack of agricultural output,” he explained.
Another panelist, a former quality engineer at the Budapest Waterworks in Hungary, Genoveva Frank said that in his brief time in Pakistan, he has seen people using the most expensive and most water-consuming systems.
He advised that there are mobile water purification and packaging systems available that should be used instead. “We are here to help so please learn from us and adopt the changes discussed in order to preserve water for the future,” he added.
In conclusion, a question was posed to the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairperson Lieutenant General (retd) Muzammil Hussain, relating to hydro-electric projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “The Chinese did show an interest in such projects but they spoke of ownership, which is unacceptable to Wapda and Pakistan,” he replied.