ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain will leave for Tajikistan on Tuesday (June 19) to attend a water conference in a bid to engage in water diplomacy at a time when Pakistan is facing prospects of acute shortages.
The visit is supposed to shift focus to sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for achieving social, economic and environmental goals.
Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon had invited Hussain for taking part in the high-level international conference on the “International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028”, which will be held on June 20 in Dushanbe.
“This will be the president’s first trip to Tajikistan. On the sidelines, Hussain will also discuss with his Tajik counterpart bilateral cooperation in energy, trade and measures to enhance regional connectivity in the wake of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” a senior government official said.
The conference is being organised by Tajikistan government in cooperation with the United Nations and its entities, particularly the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs. Tajikistan is planning to hold the meeting bi-annually to facilitate implementation of the water-for-sustainable-development programme.
Hussain’s trip reflects Pakistan’s vision to strengthen relations with neighbouring and regional countries as well as further enhance regional connectivity.
According to reports, nearly 750 million people do not have access to clean drinking water globally whereas 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation. About 1.3 billion people are deprived of electricity.
Annually, water disasters cause $60 billion in economic losses while drought and desertification threaten livelihoods of more than 1.2 billion people across the world. Global climate change and demographic situation will undoubtedly elevate these issues.
According to estimates given by experts, world’s population will increase to more than 9 billion by 2050, resulting in a surge 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.
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 population welfare, social development, environmental protection, broad universal access to electricity, prevention of water-related natural disasters and many other priorities.
The main goal of this month’s conference is to promote efforts aimed at meeting international commitments for 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.
Pakistan is currently working on the Central Asia-South Asia (Casa) 1,000 hydroelectric power import project. Under this arrangement, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will export 1,300 megawatts, generated through water resources, to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This is a pilot project that will broaden the energy market of Pakistan for 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.
Tajikistan also plans to lay a fibre optic cable along the route of Casa project’s transmission line to connect Central and South Asia.
Pakistan and Tajikistan had also been working on a transit trade agreement to be signed by the two as well as Afghanistan to connect the two regions through a road network to enhance bilateral trade. They will discuss the progress and suggest measures to resume stalled talks on the agreement.
“Tajikistan also wants to join CPEC and seeks access to Gwadar Port. The two sides will take up this issue as well during meetings on the sidelines,” the official said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2018.