Need for National Water Policy

Reema Shaukat

Water is the true wealth in a dry land; without it, land is worthless or nearly so. And if you control water, you can control the land that depends upon it.”
(Wallas Stegner)

World which marks 22 March every year as international water day, tries to overcome the water challenges erupting with the passage of time. Apart from being one of the significant element for existence of life on earth, water is vital for economic development and human resource. Unfortunately, with every passing second, this component is wasted and the water politics is emerging as a root cause of conflict among nations. Where the globalization is making world rapidly linked, more serious issues and challenges are coming up to tackle energy depletion, water scarcity, human resource management and other menaces.

In case of Pakistan, we see that this god gifted country is blessed with minerals and other resources particularly water is in abundance. But because of inefficacy in managing water resources, it is emerging as a real threat in times to come. Climate change is also one of leading factor which is effecting water resources. With the approaching hot summers, lack of water is definitely going to muddle situation for normal livelihood of Pakistanis. Water scarcity, shortage of electric supply and later monsoon rains and it’s after effects are always troublesome for common man.

Historically Pakistan was at the suffering end after partition and dispute between both India and Pakistan over water is never considered seriously. Pakistan, in initial years after independence faced lot of problems particularly in agriculture because of stoppage of water by India. As the major rivers flowing towards Pakistan originate from India, dispute and sharing over water always came up issue for Pakistan because of Indian stubbornness. To overcome problems an Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan with the help of World Bank in 1960. Apparently it seemed that this agreement will put an end to water issue between two neighbours but with passage of time it is observed that this treaty is often violated by India and it causes serious water shortages for the Pakistan.

Apart from water issues with India, Pakistan also needs to review its policy about water at national level. Unfortunately, water issue was never considered important by any of regime in history. Though it was always put on agenda for consideration but there was no particular policy on water management and crises. Nevertheless the drafts on National Water Policy were prepared in past, but it was never measured as a serious issue to be placed on table by all stakeholders. Policymakers are now utilizing all resources to have an effective water policy as according to the recent summary presented to Council of Common Interests by Ministry of Water & Power where Pakistan is going to face acute water shortage by 2025. Summary highlights that “with increasing population, Pakistan is fast heading towards a situation of serious water shortage, putting the per-capita water availability at 940 cubic metres per year in 2015 — down from 5,260 cubic metres in 1951 — despite the addition of two major reservoirs, i.e. Tarbela and Mangla. It will drop to 860 cubic meters by 2025 thus creating acute water shortage where people fight for every drop of water”.

Few weeks back Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission proposed National Water Policy which has been drafted for the purpose of putting in place a policy framework for ensuring effective management and conservation of existing water resources, improving availability, reliability, and quality of fresh water to meet critical municipal, agricultural, energy and food security needs besides addressing the environmental concerns. The draft policy addresses critical issues of reduction in wastage of water, enhancement of water storage capacity from 14 MAF to at least 28 MAF through a network of small, medium and large-sized storage reservoirs, increasing efficiency of water use by producing more crop per drop, gradual replacement and refurbishing of irrigation infrastructure and setting up of realistic and achievable targets in consultation with the provinces.

Though the comprehensive water policy covers all the aspects including droughts, floods, climate change, energy sector requirements, conditions and need for more reservoirs, industries and waste water management but the modus operandi is the effective execution of chalked out policies at every level. Not to forget that Goal#6 of Sustainable Development Goals by UN also calls for ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, water use efficiency, and integrated water resources management.

Pakistan’s vision 2025 also stresses on enhancing agriculture capabilities, accessibility of clean water to all and overcoming water scarcity challenges. But effective contribution must come up by all stakeholders if Pakistan is aiming to be one of largest economy in years to come, CPEC holding its grounds efficiently, industrial and energy sector looking forward for future prospects. Apart from water terrorism by India, there is a dire need that Pakistan should take stand on its water resources as soon as possible. Pakistan must also work on steady basis to construct more dams to overcome problems related to water scarcity and power generation. Water is not only the apparatus of any country’s economy but the existence of life too, therefore it is pragmatic for Pakistan to have National Water Policy on urgent basis, with robust management and effective implementation.

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