There is great confusion as to whether or not the Council of Common Interests (CCI) has reached a consensus on the National Water Policy (NWP) of Pakistan in the meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi this Tuesday. Some national dailies are reporting that consensus has been reached with two provinces demanding a few changes, whereas, others are reporting that no consensus has been reached. The mixed reporting itself shows the lack of clarity on the subject from the government. If the positive reporting is to be believed, consensus has been reached on one particular aspect of the NWP, and that is building of the 6.4MAF Diamer-Bhasha Dam – which, incidentally, had already been cleared by the CCI back in 2009.
Water scarcity is one of the problems which will adversely affect the country in the next couple of years if a NWP is not adopted. The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) alerted the government that the country will run out of water by 2025 if no action is taken. Back in December 2015, the government announced work on the NWP, which would entail a larger framework focusing on developing a mechanism for charging all types of water usage, equal distribution of the resource and the building of dams.
The tricky bit here is the 18th amendment to the constitution as well. Under the 18th amendment water distribution for agriculture, domestic and industrial purposes became a provincial subject. This matter again needs approval from the CCI. What authorities fail to recognise here is that time is of essence and water is a resource which needs to be planned out carefully if the country wants to avoid the lack of water due to its own negligence. For the last 70 years as well, we have witnessed India taking advantage of Pakistan’s sluggishness in matters concerning the water resources. In this time period, they have built dams and even went ahead to stop the flow of water to Pakistan on certain occasions.
Having the hegemony over the water of the region will be a great advantage in the next couple of years. And more importantly, the survival of Pakistanis depends on it. Agriculture sector will suffer greatly due to lack of water. It is about time that a consensus is reached.