On 23rd November 2020, Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Pakistan jointly organized a Conference on “Water Security Challenges and Conservation Strategy for Pakistan” at Margala Hotel, Islamabad.
The discussion commenced with the opening remarks by Major General Hafiz Masroor Ahmed (Retd), Vice President, CGSS who stated that water is not important for life, water is life and has immense significance for life.
Dr. Steffen Kudella, Resident Representative, HSF Pakistan in his welcome remarks stated that Pakistan is one of the most naturally arid countries in the world. It has an average of only 240 mm of rainfall per year. Around one fourth of the country’s land area is cultivated, and most of this agriculture is water-intensive and dependent on man-made irrigation systems. These irrigation systems need to be efficiently maintained. Pakistan’s dependence on a single river system is extremely risky. In order to reduce this risk, the country needs to: fight water shortages, promote reforestation, maintain water infrastructure, harvest more rainfall, and strengthen its water management. Water also needs to become a topic of regional dialogue. Regional dialogues on water need to be prepared by discussions on Pakistan’s national level first.
Dr. Yusuf Zaraf, TI, Former Chairman, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) stated that water security is Pakistan’s most critical development challenge. 95% of water goes to agriculture and major user of field water is agriculture. We have taken 70 years to use water for electricity. It is expected that water scarcity will be much higher by 2025. The latest national water policy was issued by the Government of Pakistan in 2018 and new Federal Ministry for Water Resources was made. We are not making any small dams and are also exposing the population to consistent flooding. Water pricing for all wages must be made and there should be better governance and coordination among the Ministries.
Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) stated that no country has made progress without science and technology. Our national security is dependent on food security and food security is dependent on water supply and security. In 1991 and 2005, we touched water scarcity line and it is expected to become worse by 2025. There is a huge pressure on ground water, anyone can install tube wells to pump and sell unlimited ground water. Therefore, it is important to regulate it. We need to legislate and restrict indiscriminate groundwater absorption before our water becomes saline.
Advocate Ahmer Bilal Soofi – Former Federal Law Minister highlighted the effective law reforms that can ensure water security. He stated that legal framework provides potential to move ahead and address these problems. Water is a state specific issue and we need to have a holistic and pragmatic approach towards it. We do not have legislative clarity for water management, everyone is working on a separate path. He recommended that international law interns team can be invited to Pakistan and their suggestions for scientific community must be taken.
Mr. Shahid Hameed, General Manager (Hydro), WAPDA Headquarters, Lahore stated that water is less and limited but it is life. Only 1% of water is present in the form of fresh water in streams. We need water reservoirs to save flood water, rain water so that it can be used in due course. We have to transfer water from western to eastern areas through water barrages, canals etc.
Dr. Shaheen Akhtar, Professor, Department of International Relations, National Defence University, Islamabad stated that water diplomacy can be a tool to counter water challenges in Pakistan. For last seven decades, water problem has been left to technical people. Foreign policymakers can ensure stronger agency at international level. Our economy is linked with waters of Indus. Indus Basin has a unique hydrology, one just has to regulate its water throughout the year.
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Khan, Member Board of Experts, CGSS highlighted security of water sources and catchment areas. He stated that water security is an increasingly important issue that constitutes one of the biggest challenge to Pakistan. It is a multi-dimensional problem therefore there cannot be a single solution. Water sources of Pakistan are declining and water scarcity is increasing.
Dr. Hifza Rasheed – Director NWQL, Pakistan Council of Research In Water Resources (PCRWR) stated that Pakistan has external and internal threats related to water security and conservation and our vulnerability index is very high as compared to other countries. Our storage capacity is less and must be increased and we must establish good water distribution mechanism.
Brigadier Muhammad Aslam Khan (Retd) – Chairman Gomal Damaan Area Water Partnership Pakistan stated that there is no water scarcity issue at the global level, rather issues related to water conservation and unequal distribution of water creates problem. He highlighted the projects that are currently undertaken for controlled usage and storage of water.
The event was attended by approximately 125 participants, and was moderated by Ms. Minahil Shawal Afridi, Research Executive, CGSS.
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