ISLAMABAD: There is not an iota of doubt that water is life and has always been a critical global issue. It is feared that water could be a cause for wars among different countries in future.
Nations must engage in water diplomacy and extensively focus on sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for achieving social, economic and environmental goals.
Besides being a potential source of conflict between nations, water scarcity may pose a threat to the integrity of a federation. In Pakistan, provinces regularly accuse each other of water theft due to its acute shortage.
According to some reports, nearly 750 million people do not have access to clean drinking water around the world whereas 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation. About 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity.
Water disasters cause $60 billion in economic losses annually and drought and desertification threaten livelihoods of more than 1.2 billion people across the world. Global climate change and demographic situation will undoubtedly have a significant impact on these issues. According to estimates given by experts, world’s population will increase to more than 9 billion by 2050, resulting in an increase in water demand.
It is feared that due to the impact of climate change, more than 50% of the world’s population will face water scarcity.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on December 21, 2016 entitled “International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028”, sponsored by 177 member states of the world body.
Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon also launched an initiative during the seventh World Water Forum in South Korea. This initiative focused mainly on sustainable development and integrated management of water resources.
Implementation of the initiative will lead to improvement in the welfare of population, social development, environmental protection, broad universal access to electricity, prevention of water-related natural disasters and many other priorities.
Tajikistan and the UN are organising a high-level international conference on the “International Decade for Action, Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028” from June 20 to 22 in Dushanbe.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Tajikistan Ambassador Sherali S Jononov said the main goal of the conference was to promote efforts aimed at meeting international commitments to water and water-related issues. These commitments also include the development goals contained in the UN Millennium Declaration, particularly cutting by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
Jononov said conference participants would engage in comprehensive discussion in order to play a crucial role in implementation of the international decade and make its results evident for the wider international community.
Pakistan is currently working on the Central Asia-South Asia (Casa) 1,000 electricity import project. Under this arrangement, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will export 1,300 megawatts to Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a pilot project that will open the energy market of Pakistan to other countries like Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
Tajikistan, rich in hydroelectric power resources, has 4% of the world’s and 53% of Central Asia’s hydel energy resources. At present, the hydroelectric power potential of the country stands at 527 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually, of which only 4-5% is utilised. In addition to power projects, Tajikistan is working on sustainable development and integrated management of water resources.
Pakistan’s participation in water diplomacy
A high-level Pakistan delegation will participate in the Tajikistan conference that will come up with practical recommendations for achieving the sustainable development goals and targets related to water resources.
The present government in Pakistan is close to announcing the National Water Policy that will focus primarily on effective use of water not only for crops, but for drinking as well.
A draft of the water policy was tabled in a recent meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for approval, but consensus could not be reached. The paper will again be put before the CCI after incorporating proposals of the provinces.
According to experts, Pakistan should take serious measures and become part of the water initiative launched by Tajikistan. Pakistan is experiencing acute water shortages. Recent figures suggest Rabi crops faced 35% water shortage because of a lack of major dams and strategy to ensure effective use of water.
New dams will not only help meet needs of the agriculture sector, but will also generate cheap electricity to meet the fast growing power demand. Shortage of water casts a negative impact on the planation of some key crops, which are necessary to ensure food security and feed many industrial units.
The writer is a staff correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2018.