ISLAMABAD - Rising water insecurities can propel conflicts in the future. There is a need for conservation and proper management of water resources in the country.
This was expressed by a number of experts and community members at a special seminar on 'Water for Future: Perspectives from Pakistan' to mark the World Water Day on Friday.
The event was organized by Oxfam, SPO, SDPI, IUCN, PARC, Indus Consortium and Mobilink. Panelists and experts discussed the issues like water in Pakistan's perspective, challenges for future related to water, water for equitable social outcomes and macro issues of water sector in Pakistan.
Speaking at the occasion, Naseer Memon, Executive Director SPO, highlighted that there is no policy framework for water management in Pakistan. Equity and access to clean water and sanitation have become major issues for a number of local communities in the country. Water variability is also high in the country; certain areas have higher availability of water resources while others continue to suffer from severe droughts.
"Policy frameworks should be developed at the provincial level, and should be consolidated into a comprehensive framework for the country," observed Zaigham Habib.
He said that there is a need to ensure equitable water distribution across Pakistan. Indigenous populations and communities should be made part of the development process, he stressed.
Abid Suleri, Executive Director SDPI, said that there is a need for greater political wisdom to address policy gaps in water related policies. He said that the media and the civil society could play a key role in sensitizing policy-makers over crucial issues.
Shahid Ahmed from the IUCN said that unless the sewage system is properly managed in Pakistan, water related issues cannot be resolved. The country also lacks in water-borne transportation. The biogas produced from sewage can also be used as fuel for vehicles, he said.
Water has become an increasingly scarce resource and as energy demand grows, conflicts over water will increase. Competition over water resources is already on the rise among municipalities, farmers, industrial and power suppliers, as evident in many parts of the world including Pakistan.
Qamar Zaman, Senior Advisor Climate Change LEAD Pakistan, said that climate change is now a priority agenda globally. "However, the issue is not given as much importance in Pakistan. The country's vulnerability to climate change has also been on the rise over the last few years, as evident by erratic movements in the frequency of rainfall. Pakistan's climate change policy should focus on adoption of frameworks being developed globally," he recommended.
Dr Fatah Murree, Project Director Sindh Water Sector Improvement Project, said that at micro level, we have water and sanitation issue, which should be addressed in local government law. He said that drinking water and health issues should also be resolved.
Community from all over the country also shared their problems related to water shortage, floods and health issues due to industrial wastage dumping in fresh water.
Abrar Kazi highlighted that international law has advanced substantially on water issues and water related conflicts. However, there is little awareness and education on water management in Pakistan. Climate change has been inducing glaciers melting in the country, which can lead to inter-temporal water insecurities.
Arif Jabbar Khan stressed that there is a need to bridge the knowledge gap for the welfare of those most vulnerable to water related issues.
Shakeel Ahmed, Head-Climate Change Study Centre, SDPI, observed that water, energy and food securities are interdependent and a policy shift in one of the streams would affect others. There is, therefore, a need to develop a policy framework that deals with all three of these issues in a holistic manner.
Saleem Malik from PRAC presented case studies on the use of alternative energy tools, including solar powered pumps, for irrigation purposes in Pakistan.