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Business Recorder

Published Date: Feb 28, 2013

India, Pakistan urged to revisit Indus Water Treaty

at a seminar, while underlining the need for mutual co-operation between India
and Pakistan, have called upon both the country to revisit ‘Indus Water Treaty’
to fulfil future water needs in both the countries.

Speaking on the launching of a report titled "Indus Basin Roadmap for
Cross-Border Water Research, Data Sharing, and Policy Co-ordination",
organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday,
the experts revealed that Indus basin was under extreme pressure where per
capita water availability had decreased manifold.

With the changed scenarios, demand policy makers to respond to overlapping
socio-economic and environmental threats so as to ensure water availability and
quality for millions of people dependent on Indus River Basin.
Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, Senior Research Associate, SDPI, started the proceedings
and said that report was produced by Indus Working Group, which was the outcome
of Pakistan-India Track-II project for which SDPI had partnered with the
Stimson Centre, Washington DC. He briefed that working group was comprised 25
experts that joined hands to build mutual understanding between Indian and
Pakistani decisions-makers on risks and opportunities arising out of Indus
river basin.

Sharing the recommendation of the report, David Michel, Director Environmental
Security, Stimson Centre, US said that effective management of the basin’s
water resources – built on sound scientific data, guided by an integrated
knowledge base, and anchored by capacity building and confidence building
measures – can promote a sustainable future for both India and Pakistan in the
Indus Basin. He said the report stressed on cross-border dissemination of
hydrological data; promotion of laser land levelling technology and drip
irrigation systems; establishing best practices for increased water storage;
and identifying alternative crops better suited for growth in the basin’s arid
climate. It also prioritises investment in regular maintenance of canal
infrastructure to minimise agricultural water losses.

Citing recommendation on energy and economic development, he focused on
initiating a professional exchange programme for experts between both the
countries to educate people on how climate change and shifting precipitation
patterns were influencing water availability.

It also recommends developing a digitised online model of the Indus Basin and
increase the knowledge base on monsoon variability trends to improve outcomes
for rainfall dependent agriculture. Ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel (Retd), former
UN assistant secretary general and Member Board of Governors, SDPI, was of the
view that Indus Water Treaty that survived three wars and governed the water
issues for the last five decades needed to be preserved and further refined to
address the gaps, issues and challenges confronting both the nations.
He said that existing treaty had no provisions on how to respond to variations
in water flow that climate change could engender. "Nor does the agreement
contain effectively binding provisions to address water quality or pollution.
Similarly, while the two countries share trans-boundary aquifers, there are no
provisions for managing groundwater supplies," he added.
He concluded by saying that the water scarcity was common challenge that posed
existential threat to India and Pakistan and it was essential that both
countries adopt a joint approach to address the issue. Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan,
Vice Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad lamented the inefficient
use of water and said that efficiency of only 40 percent in agriculture water
usage was a crime that could not be tolerated. He talked about comprehensive
water distribution arrangements between the upper riparian region and lower
riparian regions not only between India and Pakistan, but also between the
Dr Iqrar said Pakistan had one of the world’s lowest ratios for water storage
and suggested introducing rainwater harvesting and watershed management in
Indus river basin. Simi Kamal emphasised on educating people on sustainable
water usage and said unless the water prices in the country were not increased
there would be continuous wastage of water in agriculture, industry and in
domestic use. "Pakistan has the lowest productivity as per capita water
and land usage and this must be changed. We have to educate people to take responsibility
in efficient water use and management," she added. She also asked civil
society, young researchers, and academicians to initiate research initiatives
on water issues and facilitate government in taking correct policy decisions.
Syed Iqbal Hussain, an expert from India presented deliberation on glacial
dimensions of Indus water basin. He was of the view that 80 percent of water in
Indus River came from snow and glacial melt and keeping in view the rapid
melting of glaciers especially in Tibetan plateau from where Indus originated,
it was possible that there might be substantial decrease in water flow in Indus
in coming future. He also showed his concerns over coal fired power plants in
India, producing 70 percent of electricity, and were source of black carbon
that was responsible for fast melting of glaciers in the region.