ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) has deferred approval of the National Water Policy (NWP) till its next meeting due to reservations from Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) provinces and absence of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The Ministry of Water Resources has been working on the draft of the policy for one year and the cabinet has also recently passed the policy in principle. But the policy could not get through the CCI in its meeting on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chaired the 36th CCI meeting at his office in which chief ministers of Sindh, K-P and Balochistan took part. The Punjab CM was represented by Punjab Minister for Finance Ayesha Ghaus Pasha.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz briefed the committee about the NWP draft, emphasising that Pakistan is rapidly becoming a water-scarce country and obligations towards Sustainable Development Goals require adoption of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).
“Population growth and water demands for various sectors of the economy necessitate urgent measures to enhance storage capacity,” Aziz said, adding that the NWP includes strategic initiatives and is in line with the National Climate Change Policy adopted in 2012.
Aziz, who has been involved in drafting, consultation and formulation of the policy, informed the participants in detail that the draft included establishment of administrative bodies at federal and provincial levels.
The NWP includes a National Water Council and provincial water authorities to improve coordination regarding water resource management. According to sources in the water ministry, the council will be chaired by PM, and CMs will be its members.
It will be the first body of its kind to discuss inter-provincial and federal issues of water.
Right after the presentation, the Sindh and KP raised objections to certain provisions of the draft. The meeting, which continued for about three hours, decided to let the provinces discuss the provisions and objections of the draft till they reach a consensus.
A press release issued by the PM Office said there was a consensus among the participants on the need to adopt the NWP. Later, it was decided that the proposed policy would be tabled in the next CCI meeting following the incorporation of suggestions from provinces before giving it a final go-ahead.
The draft policy includes pricing the water at the delivery point while for environmental and ecological needs the water supply has to be free of cost. The policy also includes increasing the development budget for water resources from 3.7 per cent to 10 per cent by 2019 and eventually to 20 per cent by 2030.
According to the policy, a new groundwater authority will be established in each province to ensure sustainability and transparency, besides an information technology-based monitoring system at all diversion points from the rivers and reservoirs for availability of real-time data.
The NWP has been facing dozens of stumbling blocks since 2005 and is postponed for one or the other reason. The ambitious policy aims at planning, regulation, development, coordination and management of water resources in the country.
Later, the Statistics Division secretary updated the committee on CCI’s earlier decision of carrying out a validation exercise on Census 2017 results. The meeting reiterated that 5% validation exercise has to be undertaken through a third party as per the decision taken at the CCI meeting held in November 2017.
The finance secretary gave briefing on various subsidies being given by the government on different commodities. These include subsidy for maintaining strategic wheat reserves, subsidy on essential items through Utility Stores Corporation, Ramazan Relief Package and support for export of wheat and sugar.