Rawalpindi -  Speakers at a seminar said that water was a key to food security. They said that major changes in policy and management across the entire agricultural production chain were needed to ensure best use of available water resources aimed at meeting growing demands for food and other agricultural products.

The seminar titled ‘Water for Sustainable Development: Impacts of Climate Change on Water and National Food Security’ was organised by the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR) in collaboration with Oxfam, Indus Consortium and UN-HABITAT to mark the World Water Day on Thursday. On the occasion, Dr Shamsul-Mulk, former chairman Wapda was the chief guest while Prof Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad, Vice Chancellor (VC) PMAS-AAUR was the guest of honour.    

On this occasion, former Wapda chairman Dr Shamsul-Mulk said that Pakistan possessed largest water drain system in the world and it was difficult to understand how a country with such resources is poor.

He said, “Pakistan’s water and electricity problems are not real the problems of Pakistani rulers, therefore they never make concrete steps to get rid the country of these pressing problems. “Students and civil society will have to play a crucial role in creating a larger consensus, as larger water reservoirs will benefit every Pakistani,” he added.

Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad informed the gathering that a conventional farmer gets 5-6 tons yield of vegetable from per acre of land while a progressive farmer can yield 12-15 tons through tunnel farming. He further stated that the Arid University is yielding 300 tons per acre at the Rawat farms through hydroponic system. He said, “ The Arid University has become a role model for federal and provincial governments’ institutions in the field of rainwater harvesting system. Many institutions are seeking our help in establishing a facility like we have in Rawat,” he added.

He said that Pakistan spent Rs10 billion last year for importing tomatoes from India. Give me Rs2 billion and I will secure your tomato supplies for ten years to the extent that you may also export to India,” said Dr Niaz added.

Javeria Afzal, Advisor (Livelihood & Adaptation) of Oxfam Novib, said that we need to plan ahead for coping with disasters. “Global phenomenon of climate change is also affecting many developed countries but they have resources and technology to significantly reduce the losses. But developing countries like Pakistan are being affected the most despite the fact that Pakistan is at the bottom in emitting greenhouse gases,” she added. “In the face of predictions of more extreme weather, Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments and civil society organisations are responsible to protect citizens by materialising their pledges and scaling up current programmes that help ensure resilience to climate-related risks,” Javeria emphasized.

Dr Anwaar Ahmad, PMAS-AAUR Director Student Affairs, Hussain Jarwar, Indus Consortium’s National Coordinator and Fiza Qureshi, National Coordinator of Indus Consortium’s Improving Water Governance project also addressed on the occasion. They delivered lectures on impacts of climate change on water and food security and highlighted that changes in climate are already affecting the sustainability of agricultural systems and disrupting production.

They pointed out that climate change is affecting all four dimensions of food security, including food availability, food accessibility, food utilisation and food systems stability. They suggested that national food security strategy must be evolved sooner than later and the primary focus of such a strategy should be ensuring food security in extremely food insecure districts.

Students of university’s different departments also conducted a splendid theatre performance, which highlighted the impacts of climate change on water and food security. Two short documentaries were also screened in the event attended by a large number of students and faculty members.

On the occasion, Dr Shamsul-Mulk, former chairman Wapda also planted a tree on the university premises. An awareness walk to mark World Water Day was also held which was led by Dr Shamsul-Mulk and PMAS-AAUR Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr Rai Niaz Ahmad.