ISLAMABAD - President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday resolved that Pakistan would make efforts towards safeguarding country’s water rights by engaging India in positive dialogue on issues pertaining to Indus Water Treaty to avoid potential conflicts in the future.

He urged the Foreign Office and the concerned stakeholders to engage India in a constructive dialogue to achieve bilateral and multilateral arrangements on trans-boundary water matters.

He also urged for consensus and mutual trust among the provinces on the issues of dams to eradicate water scarcity in Pakistan.

“We as a nation need to think beyond local and parochial interests. We need to think for our country above all- That is Pakistan comes first,” said the President.

Citing IRSA Water Accord of 1991, the President emphasised that the concerns of different stake holders should be addressed at the institutional level and also in the Parliament.

He as a chief guest highlighted the dire need for engaging India in positive dialogue on water issue during inauguration session of the International Symposium titled “Creating a Water-Secure Pakistan”.

The two-day symposium is hosted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in collaboration with the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan (L&JCP).

Hundreds of participants including judges of the Supreme Court, High Courts, Federal Ministers, Parliamentarians, diplomats, law officers of the provinces, members of the Bar Councils and associations and media persons attended the inaugural session.

Former Additional Advocate General Punjab Asma Hamid conducted the inaugural session. 

In his address to the participants, President Arif Alvi hoped that the symposium and its thematic sessions would be informative for the participants and would play important role towards creating awareness for a “Water Secure Pakistan”.

“With every passing day the need to build water reservoirs is being felt more than ever. Water availability for agriculture, industry and even for household is depleting and it is apprehended that we may become a water stressed country if remedial measures are not taken,” the President feared. “We had inherited one of the best canal irrigation systems in the world but we failed to take stock of the situation, as with the increase in population the need for water for cultivatable land also increased. The canal system, however, was not expanded adequately to compensate for the new demand. This shortfall was met with ground pumping resulting in the decrease in the water table across the country especially in Balochistan,” the President lamented.

“Pakistan’s water storage capacity is limited to only 30 days which is reducing with time due to sedimentation. In case the new water reservoirs are not constructed, the irrigation supplies would reduce substantially to the level which we had in 60s when there were no reservoirs. This situation would create serious water conflicts in the society which can only be addressed by taking timely action. There is a need for building of large water reservoirs,” he stated.

“About 2 million drought-ridden and impoverished residents of Tharparkar and Cholistan amplify the human side of this problem. The area represents one of the worst hit regions of the country because of poor water management and as a result thousands of children have lost their lives. The situation in Tharparkar is a case in example of how bleak the things may become in other parts of the country in case adequate “Water Management Measures” are not adopted. In order to improve the ground water levels and recharge our Aquifers we need to build more Delay Action Dams,” said the President.

He also gave credit to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and commended his initiative of establishing the “DAM FUND”.

“I take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the nation for being the bastion of this noble cause. I have also come to know, that since its inception a total amount of Rs 6.4 billion (as of October 17th, 2018) have already been generated which speaks volumes of the enthusiasm and trust shown by our fellow countrymen,” Dr Arif Alvi added.

“It is now for all of us to demonstrate motivation and implement this policy. Furthermore, in order to ensure a behavioural change a campaign on water conservation is also required to be developed and launched.”

“I must also lay stress here, that our obligation to manage water is not merely limited to our national interests but it also constitutes a major component of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Goal 6 of the SDGs highlights that “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all".

He also urged the govt to adopt world best practices which include building of water reservoirs and dams, planning for water conservation, water audit techniques, water pricing, enhancing the irrigation efficiency and water productivity, water reuse and recycling methods, satellite telemetry system for equitable distribution, adoption of drip and sprinkler irrigation techniques for water conservation and management.

Chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar in his speech said that the irrigation system of country for last 40 years was poorly managed with a great deal of canal seepage, and without efficient sprinkler system.

“This is a governance, infrastructure and education issue which results in large quantities of wasted water – more efficient irrigation systems, as well as less water intensive crops ought to be considered,” he said.

He added that the top court was under a duty to serve the country and its people, adding, that it had long been established that water was essential for the existence of life.

“The significance of water encompasses all, and, therefore, so does the problem of water scarcity, both nationally and globally. The dire water shortage has led to the recognition of a right to water itself, for can there be any life at all without water? All living organisms on this planet are dependent on water for their survival. More than 60 per cent of the human body itself comprises of water,” he said.

He added that according to the World Resources Institute, Pakistan will rank 23rd out of the top 33 most water-stressed countries by 2040. “The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources has opined that Pakistan may run dry by 2025 if the present conditions continue. Pakistan touched the ‘water stress line’ in 1990 and crossed the ‘water scarcity line’ in 2005, and relatively little has been done to improve the supply or use of water.”

It is pertinent, he said, that Pakistan immediately begins to adopt measures to solve the problems that contribute to water scarcity.

Recognising the importance of water for the preservation of life in Pakistan, the Supreme Court has recently passed a judgment in which we highlighted the risks posed by  water scarcity and its security and directed the executive to take all the necessary steps to commence construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams, he said.

“It is only fairly recently that the nation as a whole has become aware of the severity of the issue of water scarcity and security and it is very unfortunate that the seriousness of water issues has not been talked about more in the past.”

Chief justice added that their aim was to summarise expert knowledge and experience in water resources management.

“We also intend to consider new ideas, approaches and methodologies to find a concrete solution to ensure water security for Pakistan. This would help the government to effectively prepare the nation against future hazardous phenomena including droughts and floods,” he added.

In addition to exploring novel ways of fundraising for dam construction, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said that formulating and implementing an effective fair water pricing model was essential, adding it was no longer feasible to allow unfettered access to most valuable resource with no incentives to check usage.

“Pakistan is an agrarian economy and thus requires vast quantities of water to bolster its economic growth – the key to formulating an effective pricing system is making sure we take into account the industrial and agricultural water requirements and do not hinder productivity and people’s livelihoods in pursuit of conservation,” he added.

 

Pakistan to engage India on water issue: Alvi