ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Pakistan jointly organized a Conference on “Water Security Challenges and Conservation Strategy for Pakistan” at Margala Hotel in Islamabad on Monday.
The Vice President CGSS Major General (retd) Hafiz Masroor Ahmed commenced the discussion at the Conference with the opening remarks, saying that water is not important for life, water is life and has immense significance for life.
In his welcome remarks, the Resident Representative of HSF Pakistan Dr. Steffen Kudella said 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.
The former Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Dr. Yusuf Zaraf said that water security is Pakistan’s most critical development challenge. 95% of water goes to agriculture and a 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 a 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.
The Chairman Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) Dr. Muhammad Ashraf said 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.
The former Federal Law Minister Advocate Ahmer Bilal Soofi highlighted the effective law reforms that can ensure water security. He stated that the legal framework provides the 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 the international law interns team can be invited to Pakistan and their suggestions for the scientific community must be taken.
The General Manager (Hydro) at WAPDA Headquarters in Lahore Shahid Hameed said that water is less and limited but it is life. Only 1% of water is present in the form of freshwater in streams. We need water reservoirs to save floodwater, rainwater so that it can be used in due course. We have to transfer water from western to eastern areas through water barrages, canals, etc.
The Professor at the Department of International Relations in National Defence University (NDU) Dr. Shaheen Akhtar said that water diplomacy can be a tool to counter water challenges in Pakistan. For the last seven decades, the water problem has been left to technical people. Foreign policymakers can ensure stronger agency at the 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.
The Member Board of Experts at CGSS Professor Dr. Muhammad Khan highlighted the security of water sources and catchment areas. He said that water security is an increasingly important issue that constitutes one of the biggest challenges 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.
The Director NWQL at Pakistan Council of Research In Water Resources (PCRWR) Dr. Hifza Rasheed said 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 a good water distribution mechanism.
The Chairman Gomal Damaan Area Water Partnership Pakistan Brigadier (retd) Muhammad Aslam Khan said that there is no water scarcity issue at the global level, rather issues related to water conservation and unequal distribution of water creates a problem. He highlighted the projects that are currently undertaken for the controlled usage and storage of water.
The event was attended by approximately 125 participants and was moderated by the Research Executive at CGSS Ms. Minahil Shawal Afridi.