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The News

Published Date: Mar 5, 2013

Indus Water Treaty needs to be preserved, refined

Shafqat
Kakakhel, former UN assistant secretary-general, has said that Indus Water
Treaty, which survived three wars and governed the water issues for the last
five decades should be preserved and further refined to address the gaps,
issues and challenges confronting both the nations.

Kakakhel
was speaking at the launching of a report ‘Indus Basin roadmap for cross-border
water research, data sharing, and policy coordination’ organised here by
Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

He
said that existing treaty has 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, he said
adding that while the two countries share trans-boundary aquifers, there are no
provisions for managing groundwater supplies. He observed that the water
scarcity is a common challenge that poses existential threat to India and
Pakistan and it is essential that both countries adopt a joint approach to
address the issue.

Syed
Iqbal Hussain, an expert from India, said that 80 per cent of water in Indus
River comes from snow and glacial melt and keeping in view the rapid melting of
glaciers especially in Tibetan plateau from where Indus originates, it is
possible that there may be substantial decrease in water flow in future. He
said that India and China are contributing to black carbon emanating from their
coal-fired power plants in a massive way thereby leading to glacier melting in
the Himalayas.

Referring
to building dams by India, he said that dams also disturb ecology of rivers. He
said that black carbon also affects global warming as well as whether changes
thereby disturbing water flows. He said that there is consensus between India
and Pakistan that climate change is going to affect agriculture and life
patterns in South Asia and cooperation between them is a requirement we like it
or not.

David
Michel, Director, Environmental Security, Stimson Centre, USA, said that
effective management of the Sindh 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 that the report stresses 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. Citing
recommendation on energy and economic development, he focused on initiating a
professional exchange programme for experts between both the countries.

Dr
Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad,
lamented the inefficient use of water and said that using only 40 per cent of
agriculture water is a crime that cannot be tolerated. He stressed for
comprehensive water distribution arrangements between the upper riparian region
and lower riparian regions not only between India and Pakistan but also between
the provinces.

He
said that Pakistan has one of the world’s lowest ratio for water storage and
suggested introducing rainwater harvesting and watershed management in Indus
river basin. He said that no house can be constructed unless there is a
provision for rainwater harvesting at rooftop in Australia. He lamented that
our three big cities are consuming more water than the combined storage
capacity of Mangla and Tarbela dams.

Simi
Kamal said that unless the water prices in the country are 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, she said, adding that we have to educate people to
take responsibility in efficient water use and management.