Water Woes, Challenges And Way Forward By Muhammad Bilal Abdul Ghani

According to one survey Pakistan has only water storage capacity only for thirty day as compare to international standard given of 120 days. Moreover, India is continuously stealing our liquid gold with each passing day as it has started more than twenty small and large scale water projects on the rivers of Pakistan. Water reservoirs are major source of hydro power production, Pakistan has hydro power generation capacity of more than 50,000 MW and Pakistan is using only its 13 percent which is very menial figure as compare to other neighbouring countries like India, China and Turkey. There is dire need to wake up from slumber and take immediate preventive actions to tackle this problem.
Pakistan has crossed both water stressed and water scarce boundaries. The availability of per capita water in Pakistan is reducing drastically. If we look at history, per capita available water in 1951 was 5260 m3,in 2007 it was 1200 m3, in 2009it was 1100 m3, in 2010 it was 1000 m3, in 2017it was908 m3and projected to touch down 800 m3 in 2025. The graph is exponentially going downward and water available for rabi and kharif seasons is reducing with every passing year. According to Pakistan council of research for water resources, if no more water reservoirs will be built, Pakistan will be drought affected country in 2025. A drought bomb is ticking on the fate of Pakistan. Before going to solutions we will analysis the problems of Pakistan in the field of construction of water reservoirs and storage problems.
Pakistan is facing water problems in two dimension domestic and regional issues. In domestic level there are two type of problems, one is royalty issue and other is non implementation of water appointment accord 1991. In royalty, provinces have dispute over the distribution of profits associated with water reservoirs. Tarbela dam is located in KP and Mangla dam is located in Punjab and both provinces demanded more share in profit due to their provinces. Water appointment accord came in to effect in March 21, 1991, according to clause 2 of document Punjab will get 55.94 MAF, Sindh will get 48.76 MAF, KP 5.78 and Baluchistan will get 3.87 MAF of water. The provinces at tail end often blamed other provinces of using their share water. Sindh blamed Punjab and Baluchistan accuses Sindh of not giving their due share.
The major reasons of the water fiasco are , bourgeoning population , over exploitation of underground water, increase in industrial activity, climate change , failure to augmentation of water resources, old and outdated irrigation system, poor water monitoring and management system. Heavy sedimentation in existing water reservoirs which has reduced 27 percent of our water storage capacity. The two major dimensions in these areas are water theft and water wastage Due to these reasons a larger part of water is wasted and the amount that is being effectively used is very low. Out of 145 MAF, only Pakistan is storing 14 MAF. According to IRSA figures, Pakistan has been discharging 30 MAF annually into the ocean whereas the requisite flow under Kotri Barrage is 8 MAF.
There should be complete ban on ground water exploitation, In Punjab only there are 1.2 million tube wells, which are biggest source of water theft
In order to solve these domestic problems and simmering tensions between provinces a strong centralized policy is required to satisfy the provinces. Many clauses of water appointment accord are ambiguous which needs immediate review. The water issues should be regularly discussed in council of common interest meetings and proper solution including revised water sharing formula should come into surface to solve the distribution and storage related problems. More than 25 years have been passed after water appointment accord but still no amendment is made in spite of many changes in weather conditions, precipitation pattern and storage capacity of dams. Constitution amendment should be made to ensure the free and fair distribution of water among provinces. The concept of water trading should be implemented among the provinces because Baluchistan and KP cannot extract and utilize their maximum share due to their land topography. Punjab and Sindh can use this water and payment can be made against this as a return according to a pre agreed formula.
At domestic level one important thing is water management system. Modern, digital water monitoring system should be installed on canals and rivers with centralized control room to monitor water theft and wastage. We have to change our agriculture methods so that water can be used efficiently. We have to shift our crop trends from more water intensive crops towards least water intensive crops. Effective water pricing system should be adopted and in this regards we can follow Israel model. Israel is 60 percent desert and has only one fresh water lake yet it is water super power and its exports are in millions of dollars. They have adopted pay-as-you use model and with this model people have realized the true importance of water wasting and utilization.
Adding more to it, there should be complete ban on ground water exploitation, In Punjab only there are 1.2 million tube wells, which are biggest source of water theft. Every person who wants to extract ground water must take NOC from government and then proceed it further with effective utilization. Furthermore, a mass awareness campaign should be launched at the earliest to educate the people about water scarcity and tell them how we can save the water by using grey water system in households and drip irrigation system in fields.
Last but not least, National water policy has been formally approved and it should not collect dust in baskets and strong action committees should be made under the supervision of prime minister to implement its points in letter and spirit so that we can save this wastage of liquid gold.
The second dimension of water woes is regional issue. It is clearly written on the wall that future wars will be fought on this liquid gold. Pakistan has two rival countries in this regard, one is India and second is Afghanistan. The water related issues with both adversaries are historic and chronicle in nature. India is trying its best to snub the Pakistan on this front and making larger dams on the share of Pakistan ignoring all international commitments. Pakistan and India were tied in to historic water related knot in 1961 with arbitration of World Bank and the outcome was Indus water Treaty. India is continuously depriving us from our water rights despite of mass climate and geo political changings. Indus water treaty is not sacrosanct document which cannot be reviewed. After passing more than 50 years, with a lot of geo graphical, environmental and climate changings it has become necessary for both countries to sit on table and review this historic agreement and make it viable for our next generations.
The biggest problem for Pakistan in this agreement is that the rivers allocated to Pakistan are coming from Indian side and they are making reservoirs on our waters violating the spirit of treaty. In recent developments, Indian PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kishanganga (330 MW)Dam built on Jhelum River. On the other hand, India has started many controversial projects including Baglihar dam (450 MW), rattle dam (850 MW), Pakal Dul Dam (1000 MW), lower Kalnai Dam (48 MW) on different rivers of Pakistan. After treaty we have three options, one is to sit together (mutual dialogues), second is neutral expert and third is appointment of court of arbitration. The most viable option is mutual dialogues which can pave the way of progress and prosperity for whole region.
On the western side Pakistan has Hydel issues with Afghanistan. There are two rivers flowing in opposite directions one is river Kabul flowing from Afghanistan to Pakistan and second is Swat River flowing from Pakistan to Afghanistan. During Hamid Karzai government, India asked Afghanistan to construct dam on River Kabul to restrict the waters of Pakistan. These developments could create problems for Pakistan. There should be comprehensive agreement between both countries for the permanent solution of problem.
The way forward to resolve these long lasting issues is mutual dialogues with both countries that should be immediately started. Modern water monitoring and management system should be installed on the rivers in order to monitor the status of water reservoirs across the borders. Old agreements and treaties should be presented on the table with win-win approach because no country wants its loss in case of water because it has become aortic for all stake holders. Both countries should relax visa conditions for frequent visits to water related people. Frequent site visits will also help to alleviate the tensions between both countries.
Recently Supreme Court has arranged the symposium with the title “creating water secure Pakistan”. In ceremony addressing to the audience, president of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi said that “mistrust over dams must end and we need to build trust among the provinces” chief justice said that “work on dams should not be seen as intrusion”.
The writer is freelance engineer from UET Lahore
Published in Daily Times, November 9th 2018.
Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/319886/water-woes-challenges-and-way-forward/

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