Bad governance?: Water issues continue to evade solutions

Published: March 24, 2015
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The Senate standing committee on science and technology recently claimed that Thatta, Badin and Karachi will be submerged by 2060 if the current pace of sea erosion was allowed to continue. STOCK IMAGE

The Senate standing committee on science and technology recently claimed that Thatta, Badin and Karachi will be submerged by 2060 if the current pace of sea erosion was allowed to continue. STOCK IMAGE

HYDERABAD: The issues surrounding water — shortage of irrigation and drinking water, sea erosion, destruction of the delta and contaminated waterways and lakes — continue to evade solutions in Pakistan. And consequently, the harmful effects of these problems on the livelihood of Pakistan’s people and their cities, towns and villages remain largely unresolved.

At a discussion titled ‘Water Crisis in Pakistan and Possible Solutions’, held on Sunday, participants identified the issues and suggested short and long-term measures to address them. The event was organised by Centre for Social Change (CSC), a non-governmental organisation working on water and environmental matters.

“Much of what we see as problems are caused by bad governance,” explained Dr Danish Mustafa, who teaches politics and environment at King’s College London. He said that flaws in the irrigation network allowed farmers near the canal heads to use more than their share of water, leading to water scarcity in the tail-end areas. “The irrigation system in Sindh is designed to fulfil 64 per cent of each farmer’s irrigation needs but farmers in the head areas often irrigate their lands up to 150 per cent intensity.”

The Senate standing committee on science and technology recently claimed that Thatta, Badin and Karachi will be submerged by 2060 if the current pace of sea erosion was allowed to continue. Experts suggest that at least 10 million acre feet water should be released every year to counter this.

Mustafa, however, found this yearly mechanism to be flawed. Instead, he recommended a formula under which water was discharged for around 10 months each year. “Large quantities of water are released during the flood season but for the rest of the year, the sea is allowed to eat away the coastal land.”

A Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority official told the participants that thousands of direct outlets in the canals were creating water shortage in the tail-end areas.

According to him, these outlets were authorised by the provincial chief minister, who used his discretionary powers for an otherwise illegal water link. “First, influential people create conditions that cause the lands of the poor to dry up, then they buy these lands at throw-away prices and finally, they get permits for outlets.”

CSC’s Zulfiqar Halepoto asserted that the mismanagement was leading to contamination of lakes and canals, destroying wetlands and deltas and creating water scarcity.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2015.

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