ISLAMABAD - In a landmark development aimed at efficient use and conservation of water resources, the centre and the federating units unanimously signed the National Water Policy at the Council of Common Interests meeting held here on Tuesday.

The 37th CCI meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, federal ministers and senior officials, also approved the first ever National Water Council (NWC). The water policy envisages development and use of water resources, irrigation and rain-fed agriculture, drinking water and industrial sanitation issues, water rights and obligations, sustainable water infrastructure, water-related hazards, quality management and other important matters.

The premier along with the four chief ministers also signed the “Pakistan Water Charter” pledging a commitment to the National Water Policy (NWP).

Earlier, the meeting witnessed a heated discussion on the issue of polluted water of rivers, especially Sutlej, being supplied for irrigation and human consumption, sources privy to the meeting told The Nation.

A member from Punjab stressed the need for a special allocation among provinces for cleansing river water. An attempt was made to block him by a chief minister arguing that the CCI was not the proper forum to debate the matter. However, the prime minister finally convinced the meeting to incorporate an important element in the NWP for purification of contaminated river water. 

Main targets proposed for 2018-2030, according to the NWP, included a focus on boosting existing water storage capacity to 14 MAF, an increase of at least 30 percent in the efficiency of water use, real-time monitoring of river flows by the IRSA and augmentation of the dwindling irrigation deliveries etc.

Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz sharing the features of the NWP, said the policy had been prepared after consulting all major stakeholders. “Proposals presented at the 36th CCI meeting have also been incorporated in the policy,” said Aziz.

He said that Pakistan was rapidly becoming water-scarce country and obligations towards the Sustainable Development Goals required the adoption of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). “The population growth and the water demand for various sectors of the economy necessitate urgent measures to enhance the storage capacity,” he said.

The CCI was briefed that the implementation of NWP will be undertaken through the national level body NWC to be chaired by the prime minister. The NWC will have federal ministers for water resources, finance, power, planning and all provincial chief ministers as members.

The NWC shall oversee the implementation of NWP and a steering committee headed by the federal minister for water resources will monitor the implementation with representatives from federal and provincial governments and relevant departments.

All the CCI members lauded the efforts of the planning commission and the Ministry of Water Resources.

At the last CCI meeting, the Sindh chief minister had expressed reservations on different clauses of the NWP.

The KP government also presented a brief on the implementation of Kazi Committee Methodology for the calculation of net hydel profits.

After detailed deliberations, the CCI directed Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, Planning Commission and Ministry of Water Resources to reconcile the claims in consultation with the provinces and resubmit the issue for a decision at the next CCI meeting.