Islamabad Declaration shines spotlight on Pakistan water crisis

Islamabad Declaration shines spotlight on Pakistan water crisis

Chief justice champions the water conservation cause at two-day international symposium

Islamabad: The Islamabad Declaration, announced at the ultimate session of the international water conference, has recommended urgent and long-term measures to overcome a looming water crisis which Pakistanis already are feeling the responsibility.

Investing in measures to improve water supply (because they build dams) and manage consumption (through water pricing), appropriate water technologies, a water tax on the agricultural sector, and better coordination among different departments were on the list of tips of the water declaration.

Calling for measures for water conservation to preserve depleting water resources, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar said that the enforcement of basic rights shouldn’t be seen as intrusion by one institution since it was the court’s duty to enforce the essential rights guaranteed beneath the constitution.

He was speaking at the two-day international symposium on ‘Developing a Water-Secure Pakistan’, on Saturday organised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad.

International water experts from the united states, Australia and South Africa attended the conference where researchers presented their research papers in the five thematic sessions, and a 20-point declaration was issued to handle Pakistan’s looming water crisis.

Speaking at the symposium, President Dr Arif Alvi needed a careful study of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between Pakistan and India to guard the country’s water rights. The declaration recommends “ International Water Law ought to be rooked by putting forward Pakistan&rsquo consistently;s perspective before various international forums” while reviewing Pakistan’s strategy regarding IWT.

One of the main element emphases of the conference was to purchase numerous small and large dams and reservoirs on important basis. The report suggests “it is imperative for Pakistan to purchase supply augmentation (dams and reservoirs) and ensure better utilisation of its groundwater, adopting appropriate water technologies (water recycling, desalinisation, and water harvesting) and manage consumption and usage of water (controlling water demand and pricing).”

Talking to Gulf News, Dr Imran Saqib Khalid, among the attendees and a topic expert, said the conference that viewed ‘dams’ because the silver bullet missed a significant point.

&ldquo ends;}While the government’s focus is on large dams mainly, Pakistan’s key problem is of management — such as for example [the] allocation, equitable and efficient usage of available water resources,” said Dr Imran Khalid, head of Environment and Climate Change at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

For Dr Khalid, building more dams in Pakistan is comparable to “adding water to a leaky bucket which will get filled never.”

Pakistan must concentrate on the low-hanging fruits of water governance offering the management structure, groundwater policy, preventing water pollution, water-efficient farming techniques and most importantly, water pricing, he advised.

In July 2018, Pakistan’s chief justice launched a campaign to get funds for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam across the Indus River because of water shortages. The fund has since crossed Rs6.4 billion (Dh175.89 million).

Although dams are essential but Dr Khalid argues the crowdfunding mission is virtually impossible as “it will require more than a decade to build a big dam and the existing cost of $15 billion (Dh55.1 billion) will further rise.” Water is stored by means of glaciers also, groundwater, lakes and small dams, he said.

The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources had already declared that the united states “may run dry by 2025” if counteractive measures soon weren’t taken.

20-point recommendations

1. Prioritising measures to realise the potential of Pakistan’s share of the Indus Basin.

2. Buying efficient water use through water recycling, desalinisation, and water harvesting and controlling water demand through pricing.

3. Revisiting the Indus Water Treaty to bolster Pakistan’s case globally.

4. Introducing modern water data collection solutions to assess water availability.

5. Adopting effective salinity and sedimentation management techniques.

6. Constructing large and small dams and reservoirs on important basis.

7. Concentrating on innovative solutions for storage facilities for low-gradient plains (flat areas, coastal areas, hard rock, desert areas).

8. Extending the Indus Basin irrigation network to create several million acres of land under irrigation.

9. Employing various non-traditional and traditional financing options for the construction of water storage facilities.

10. Improving management of groundwater storage to avoid its unrestricted extraction.

11. Reducing flood risks and tackling environmental hazards.

12. Formulating a good water-pricing model to be implemented by the competent regulatory institution(s).

13. Reducing the risks faced by Pakistan’s rain-fed areas, deserts, mountain catchment coastlines and areas.

14. Establishing a proper Indus Basin Authority by way of a legal instrument.

16. Empowering institutions with the mandatory resources and mandate, along with responsibilities.

17. Strengthening the institutional capacity of WAPDA, the primary water stakeholder, for the urgent development of reservoirs and dams.

18. Equipping the national country;s educational systems to permit for more knowledgeable recruiting which are key to addressing the emerging water challenges of the 21st century.

19. Establishing a robust task-force on water.

20. Recovering and levying agricultural tax throughout Pakistan.