ISLAMABAD: Calling for new approaches to ensure water security for millions of people, participants of a water conference on Monday urged the international community to persuade India for resolving disputes under the Indus Water Treaty and refraining from using water as propaganda tool against Pakistan.
The one-day international conference “Pakistan’s Water Security Policy: Famine Threat and Future Challenges” was organised by the Pakistan House on Monday at a local hotel.
The conference mainly focused on exploring the extent to which Pakistan is affected by droughts and famines, and their causes and effects. The conference was also aimed at reviewing the state of water security in Pakistan and devising new approaches to ensure water security for a large population.
Former Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik HI(M), in his welcoming remarks, said, “Water security has new dimensions and its impacts are beyond borders”.
“India is choking our resources by limiting our water resources. No single reservoir was constructed and political interests have ganged up against the future and survival of the country,” said Malik as he opined that Kalabagh dam should be a major manifesto in the coming elections and a referendum should be held on the issue as “it is the quickest and surest solution to the problem”.
Former ambassador Salman Bashir insisted on the right of every citizen to get safe and adequate water and called for working towards sensitising political spectrum towards water security for a sustainable future.
He also stressed the need for developing regional approach to resolve water issues, saying that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) could be utilised in the context.
“Pakistan and India can both benefit from regional initiatives like Saarc and it should not be politicised. Dispute resolution should be focused upon, and international community must persuade India for resolving issues related to water,” he said.
He also called upon parliamentarians to undertake legislative measures and factor in water development policies.
“Building water storage capacity should be a top priority as water is both a federal and provincial subject,” said Salman as he suggested that Pakistan and China should collaborate in water technology to improve distribution channels.
In his speech, engineer Shams-ul-Mulk reiterated that “there is no water policy in Pakistan” and the authorities appeared to lack political will to tackle the problem. He stressed the need for initiating construction work on Kalabagh dam without delay.
Top Pakistan diplomat leaves for India to discuss water conflict
Mulk said the absence of Kalabagh dam was costing Pakistan Rs102 billion every year.
Former ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel said the gravity of Pakistan’s water problems could be gauged by the significant decline in the per-capita water availability.
He said climate change would result in the drying up of water reservoirs, droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes that would diminish the supply of water. He called for concerted efforts to increase supply and promote water conservation.
He called for approving the national water policy as soon as possible to respond to the needs of all provinces. He also called for ensuring the participation of private sector and said water-related initiatives must respond to internal and external dimensions of the issue.
Shafqat said Pakistan must continue and redevelop its efforts to protect the Indus Water Treaty and clearly define the mandate of the water ministry in this regard. It should provide a framework for policy
intervention to address key water issues and explore the possibility of diverting and storing flood water, he said.
Dr Simi Kamal urged the government to get serious about a national water policy and put up a well-resourced permanent water commission led by people of integrity and knowledge.
“It is essential that a well-resourced, autonomous, empowered and functioning local government is in place to deliver the intent of water policy,” said Dr Kamal.
Dr Muhammad Ashraf said it was time to manage the available water resources. “The government should improve the conveyance efficiency by using high efficiency irrigation systems,” he said and stressed the need for changing the existing cropping pattern.
Dr Naseer Gilani said water and health are interconnected. He cited the spread of waterborne diseases, including Hepatitis-C which has become one of the major killers in both rural and urban areas.
“The issue of water is considerably mentioned by Quaid-e-Azam who from the start emphasised the need to prioritise water as central to every issue in the post-1947 era,” he said.
To conclude, the speakers agreed that a comprehensive water policy is the need of the hour, and in order to evolve consensus over dam building, a committee must be formed. More importantly, Pakistan should not only continue to engage India over the protection of its water rights, but also implement a strategy to manage rainwater and promote water conservation.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ