–Top judge defends dams’ initiative, says judiciary has obligation to protect rights of ordinary citizens
–President says so far Rs6.4bn have been collected in donations for construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday underscored that arduous efforts were needed to save the country from becoming water scarce.
Addressing the opening session of a two-day international symposium on ‘Creating a water secure Pakistan’ in Islamabad at the Supreme Court, the top judge criticised the role of authorities concerned for not doing enough to counter depleting water resources in the country.
“Unfortunately no dedicated efforts were made during the past 40 years to construct dams and water reservoirs in the country,” he said, warning, water reserves in “Pakistan could run dry by 2025” if drastic measures were not taken.
The CJP, who had also started a fund to make dams in the background of prevailing water shortage and subsequently came under criticism, said judiciary cannot remain oblivious to this issue as it has the obligation to protect the rights of ordinary citizens.
To save the country from the potential scarcity, the top court took notices over issues that cause water resources of the country to deplete, including the ones against deforestation and companies that exhaust whatever is available, Justice Nisar said.
Responding to the criticism made against judiciary for interfering in affairs that don’t concern it, the CJP said the fund was created keeping in mind that country has not much capital to construct large dams.
“There was an overwhelming response from the public and even children and pensioners made contributions in this fund,” the chief justice said. “No steps were taken in the past on water resources, but now everyone has to play their part to save the country from drought and famine” the top judge implored.
The symposium organised by the Law and Justice Commission (LJC) to highlight issues relating to water shortage in the country and devise immediate remedial measures was inaugurated by President Arif Alvi.
Jurists and experts in water resource management and researchers from different countries would present their research papers in the symposium that touches upon themes pertaining to legal aspects of the Indus Basin, construction and financing of dams and reservoirs and management of water resources.
‘PTI COMMITTED TO BUILDING DAMS’:
Speaking at the event, President Arif Alvi said construction of water reservoirs top priority of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
He said two million drought-ridden residents of Cholistan amplify the magnitude of this problem, adding that the ongoing situation in Tharparkar is a case in point as adequate water measures were not adopted for the growing needs of people.
The president said the water pricing mechanism needs to be revised for better consumption and stopping the wastage of this important commodity.
Alvi said agriculture methods also need to be improved with the introduction of drip irrigation system, adding water conservation techniques should be made part of the school curriculum.
Referring to Indus Water Treaty (IWT), the president said this agreement does not address the issue of decline in Pakistan’s share of water after India uses this water for its dams and negotiations with India on the treaty are essential.
About Karachi, that experiences the issue, the president said steps are being taken for desalination of water to meet the growing demands of the population.
Furthermore, he appreciated CJP’s initiative for raising the issue of water shortage and establishing a fund for this purpose. He said 6.4 billion rupees have been accumulated in the fund.
Addressing the conference, WAPDA Chairman Muzammil Hussain said that they are poised to start construction work on Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams.
Praising the CJP for his “landmark” initiative, the chairman said that the Justice Nisar’s intervention for construction of dams is a “turning point in our history and we are entering an era of progress and stability”.
He also gave an overview of the hydel power projects recently completed, saying the country has a great potential of generating hydel electricity.
He also commented on the IWT and India’s alleged violation of it, saying the Indian side is constructing dams on our rivers in clear violations of the treaty.
“Our storage capacity is also reducing due to sediment in Tarbela and Mangla dams. He said the country could meet the current crisis by exploiting the hydel potential,” he said.