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Rasheed Khalid

The News on Sunday

Published Date: May 15, 2016

High time Pakistan devises water policy

Prof Patrick Shea, former Director of the Bureau of Land Management, USA, has said that value of water is surpassing that of petroleum, hence Pakistan should formulate and implement management policy for its water resources sooner than later.
Prof Shea was giving a lecture on ‘Relevance of environmental laws to coping Climate Change’ organised here by Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
Prof Shea said that as Pakistan is turning from water surplus to a water deficient country, establishing an institutional framework for handling the challenge became all the more important.
He said t we need to sensitise the people about the value of water. He said basic challenges to be faced are accessing sweet, healthy and predictably available water. He said that the water issue was three dimensional. Its accessibility included affordability, quantity and quality. He said water should be healthy and clean whether in households, lakes, or underground. He said that predictability is associated with climate change which makes it unpredictable. 
He said that Himalayan range is like an elephant which is being defined by blind governments and policy makers in South and South East Asia.
Prof Shea called for an integrated approach to move forward. He lamented that policy makers in China, Vietnam, Burma Pakistan and India are not sharing information so there is little integrating of information. There is need of bringing educated people of the region together, as 95 % of the water in the region is shared one.
He said that Pakistan needs to categorise water moment. There is no estimate available for the availability of ground water and extent of invasion of sea water to the coastal aquifers.
He said that in Pakistan and India, melting of glaciers is an important phenomenon. According to an estimate, glaciers will melt by 2020.There is need of scientific monitoring of glacier melting, he said. He stressed the need to overcome institutional fragmentation and to promote coherence.
Shafqat Kakakhel, former Ambassador said that we started as water affluent country with 5500 cubic metre per person per annum but today per capita availability receded to by 1000 cubic metre, which according to the UN is a condition of stress. It is because of population explosion, unregulated urbanisation, decaying infra-structure and poor water management etc, he said.
He said that under the Indus Water Treaty, 3000 tube-wells were installed in Pakistan to compensate loss of water coming from eastern rivers. He said that now the figure rose to more than one million. He said there is no regulatory mechanism. Landlords believe that ground water belongs to them and they have all rights to mine it. 
Tariq Banuri, Professor of Economics at the Utah University, said that Pakistan needs to protect its available surface water as well as ground water. He also emphasised developing institutions for building policy framework and regulatory.
Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change, said that Pakistan is among the top seven most vulnerable countries due to Climate Change though it is among the lowest (135th) in its contribution to the Green House Effect.  Pakistan is falling short on its water requirement.