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Published Date: Feb 27, 2013

SDPI Press Release (February 27, 2013)

Underlining
the need for cooperation and cross border research on Indus River Basin, the
experts at a report launch have called India and Pakistan to revisit ‘Indus
Water Treaty’ to fulfill future water needs in both the countries.

The
experts were of the view that Indus basin is under extreme pressure where per
capita water availability has decreased manifold and today’s 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.

The
report titled “Indus Basin Roadmap for Cross-Border Water Research, Data
Sharing, and Policy Coordination” was organized by Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.

Shakeel
Ahmad Ramay, Senior Research Associate, SDPI started the proceedings and said
that report is produced by Indus Working Group which is the outcome of
Pakistan-India Track-II project for which SDPI has partnered with the Stimson
Center, Washington DC.  He briefed that working group is comprised of 25
experts that joined hand 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 Center, USA 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 stresses on cross-border dissemination of hydrological data;
promotion of laser land leveling 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
prioritize investment in regular maintenance of canal infrastructure to
minimize agricultural water losses.

Citing
recommendation on energy and economic development, he focused on initiating a
professional exchange program for experts between both the countries
and educate people on how climate change and shifting precipitation
patterns are influencing water availability. It also recommends developing a
digitized online model of the Indus Basin and increase the knowledge base on
monsoon variability trends to improve outcomes for rainfall dependent
agriculture.

Ambassador
(Retd) Shafqat Kakakhel, 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 needs to be
preserved and further refined to address the gaps, issues and challenges
confronting both the nations.

He
said, 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. Similarly,
while the two countries share trans-boundary aquifers, there are no provisions
for managing groundwater supplies,” he went on to add. He concluded by saying
that the water scarcity is common challenge that pose existential threat to
India and Pakistan and its 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 is a crime that cannot be tolerated. He talked of
comprehensive water distribution arrangements between the upper riparian region
and lower riparian regions not only between India and Pakistan but also between
the provinces. Dr. Iqrar 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.

Simi
Kamal emphasized on and educating people on sustainable water usage and said
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. 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 comes for 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 Indus in coming future. He also showed his concerns over coal fired power
plants in India, producing 70 percent of electricity, and are source of black
carbon that is responsible for fast melting of glaciers in the region.