–Caretaker minister gives recommendations to tackle Pakistan’s water woes in short and long term
ISLAMABAD: Being a water scarce country that has failed to take appropriate steps in the past, it is about time that Pakistan pays due heed on the water storage and conservation, Interim Minister for Water Resources Barrister Ali Zafar said.
He made the remarks while holding a news conference here on Monday where he presented some recommendations to address the water woes of the country.
Recounting the reasons behind the water shortage, Zafar emphasised that Pakistan has enough natural water resources to fulfill its need. “The failure to make dams, take appropriate measures, and to curb the violations of Indus Waters Treaty has landed us in the present dilemma,” he opined.
Zafar said that he and his ministry have sat with the experts in the field from all over the world, including notable Pakistanis, and did brainstorming to know the reasons, and to chart out plans to address the issues.
He added, “We are a low riparian country, which means that we get water from the upper regions that are not under our control.”
According to the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 between the two archrivals, India has complete control over the eastern waters of Ravi, Sutlej, and Bias while western waters of Chenab, Jhelum and Indus now belong to the sole domain of Pakistan.
“India made its dams and canals promptly while Pakistan lagged behind, we couldn’t make dams. Out of a total seven dams that were planned, unfortunately, we could make only two, that were Mangla and Tarbela,” Zafar rued, adding that the total storage capacity of 15 Million Acre Feet (MAF) now stays at 13 MAF due to silting its capacity.
It is pertinent to mention that the overall flow of water from these canals is 138 MAF. “We didn’t make Kalabagh Dam. No consensus was achieved, there were misunderstandings. Resultantly, we also failed to make other dams as well,” he said, adding that past governments didn’t pay much heed since dams are not ‘low-hanging results’ and take time to show the results.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO AVOID WATER CRISIS:
Some recommendations were made by the experts to tackle the water scarcity.
- Steps need to be taken to improve water utility, consumption and to lower the percentage used by the agricultural sector. Presently, almost 90 per cent of the water is consumed by the sector.
- Lining water canals. The primary way of water for agriculture is through canals that direly need lining. It can save 6.9 MAF and put an end to archaic agricultural techniques.
- Creating national consensus on the construction of Kalabagh Dam.
- Construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam through own resources.
- Increasing the development budget spent on the water. All over the world development budget spent on the water is over 20-30. In Pakistan, three to four per cent of development budget is spent on water which should be brought up to the international standards, i.e. 20-30%.
- Construction of smaller dams numbering 400-500.
- Using water metering at all levels.
- Rain harvesting and devising a plan to gauge water distribution among provinces by using technology.