ISLAMABAD - Federal Planning Development and Reforms Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday said Islamabad wants to resolve the water dispute with New Delhi through negotiations, adding India was stopping water of the rivers flowing to Pakistan, creating acute water shortage in the country.

Talking to media persons here after attending National Water Summit 2014, Ahsan Iqbal said the government was working on water policy to address its scarcity in the country. Pakistan is not getting 10 million acres feet water from its due share due to the water stoppage by India, which should be investigated thoroughly, he added.

Pakistan Water Summit 2014 was convened by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Power, Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and Ministry of National Food Security and Research for formulating the country’s first National Water Policy.

Addressing the National Water Summit 2014, the federal minister said water crisis could further worsen if the current water situation persisted, adding population was rising rapidly and the government could not close eyes on this issue.

He warned the water security was reminiscent to the national security as malnutrition could create national security crisis in the country. “Pakistan can store 40 percent of water, but unfortunately we are only storing 7 percent of it,” he revealed.

“Energy policy in the last decade triggered an energy crisis which is causing sufferings to the people besides threatening food security, economy, and development. Now, if we fail to formulate and implement an effective water management policy, it will lead towards a disaster. Our goal is to ensure energy, water and food security through timely action,” said the federal minister for planning, development and reforms.

“In 1947, the water availability in Pakistan was 5,650 cubic meter per person, which kept on decreasing, first, due to Indus Water Treaty, 1960, giving away 33 MAF water of three eastern rivers to India, secondly, gradual decline in trans-boundary flows into Pakistan which has been alarmingly up to the tune of 10.25 MAF, and, thirdly, exceptional growth in population of the country, all making per capita water availability in Pakistan to as low as 964 cubic meters per year which is creating water deficit and hampering our well being and, at the same time, severely affecting future economic development. Trans-boundary water issues with India and Afghanistan have to be resolved in a win-win mode to ensure regional stability and prosperity. We will work with the provinces to achieve the national goals.” said the minister

“The situation is aggravating due to our excessive reliance on underground water which is meeting more than 60% of agriculture needs. It is not only resulting in salinity but also contamination of aquifers with heavy traces of fluoride and arsenic. Climate change is also expected to have extreme effects on the glaciers which contribute over 70% of our water resources and may reduce the water availability by 30% to 40%. Furthermore, our productivity per unit of water and land is one of the lowest in the world. In USA and Australia per capita storage is 6,150 cubic meters and 5,000 cubic meters, respectively, whereas Pakistan’s storage capacity is only 132 cubic meters per person. Our neighbors, India and China, have reduced the substantial amount of water usage in agriculture sector and have enhanced productivity manifold. Pakistan’s productivity per unit of water is 0.13kg/m3 only, one-thirds of India’s and one-sixths of China’s. Similarly, Pakistan’s productivity per unit of land is one-thirds of Egypt’s, half of Saudi Arabia’s and half of India’s. Increasing productivity in water use is critical for our future development. Pakistan’s Vision 2025 assigns the highest priority to water resources and seeks a nexus of energy, water and food to ensure that we follow an integrated and holistic approach in development planning,” the minister asserted.

He further said, “Our approach is not planning for the sake of planning; we seek to minimise the gap by focusing on implementation and delivery. Water is a fundamental right of every citizen and it is responsibility of the state to ensure supply of clean drinking water to citizens.”

Addressing the summit, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi said talks were held between Pakistan and India over water issue and Indus Water Basin Treaty is still intact, which will help both the countries resolve the issue peacefully. He said the PML-N government wanted peace at home and peaceful negotiations with the neighboring countries. including India. He suggested to the forum to find out ways to make water an instrument of enhancing cooperation instead of bone of contention between India and Pakistan.

The Summit was attended by many foreign and national dignitaries, including Federal Minister for National Food Security and Reseach Sikandar Hussain Boson, Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination Riaz Pirzada, Shamsul Mulk, Stephen Davis, Shakeel Durrani, Ashfaq Mahmood, Shahid Ahmed, Imtiaz Gillani, Arun Sherestha, delegates from the World Bank, UNO, USAID, AusAID and institutions like Global Water Partnership, Lead, IFPRI and ICI MOD.