‘Political will crucial in resolving Pakistan’s water woes’

Karachi: Political will is crucial in resolving Pakistan’s water woe, said speakers of a provincial consultative Workshop for Sindh on ‘Pakistan Water Program organized by IUCN Pakistan here Monday evening in collaboration with OxfamNovib.

The objective of the consultative workshop was to discuss priority issues that Sindh is facing with respect to water resources and to devise a collaborative Water Programme to address them. The event was attended by senior officials from various line departments, government agencies of Sindh, representatives from the academia, civil society organisations and experts on water. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Shahid Ahmad, an eminent expert in drainage, soil and water resources.

Dr. Shahid Ahmad was of the view that there are many NGOs working in the water sector, but there is no specific forum for all the stakeholders to work collectively. He said that 60% of the diseases in Pakistan are water borne. He further said that until and unless Masters and PhD courses are introduced in our universities, demand for data on water cannot be generated. He further added that National water policy is still in the approval process since the last 6 years.

Participants of the workshop expressed that trust building is the key to resolving issues as lack of trust in Pakistan will further complicate water situation in the coming years. They also felt that political will is needed to resolve the water issue.

Javed Jabbar, former IUCN global Vice President and Regional Councillor of IUCN said that Pakistan is the most urbanised country in South Asia. The rate of urbanisation is greater than India. He said that sacredness of the nature has been eroded because of the industrial revolution. He said that now the humans have reached a level where any negative act of human can affect the future of entire world.

Speaking at the event Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Acting Country Representative of IUCN Pakistan said that depleting water resources is the most important subject at the national, regional and global level. The consumption of water is of extreme importance to Pakistan and is also crucial for livelihoods and economic development. He further said that if there is no judicious usage of water there are going to be challenges for our coming generations. He said that a shared understanding needs to be developed to find ways to better manage the water resources for domestic, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Speaking at the occasion, Ms. Javeria Afzal, Advisor on Climate Change and Livelihoods at OxfamNovib highlighted how water is integral for economic reasons and improving access to this scarce commodity is of utmost importance for the food security and improvement of livelihoods. She said that synergistic approach has to be adopted to improve the scarcity of water situation in Pakistan.

Shahid Sayeed Khan, Chairperson, IUCN Pakistan National Committee talked about the need to spread the awareness amongst the masses about water conservation and water related issues.

Zabardast Khan Bangash, Manager IUCN Balochistan Programme spoke about the problems faced by the most water-starved province in Pakistan i.e. Balochistan. He mentioned that it lacks the carrying capacity of the winter water into summer season. He emphasized on the need for developing a mechanism for the storage of water in Balochistan. He was of the view that Balochistan can serve as a food basket for the country once this issue is resolved.

Javed Shamim of Water & Sewerage Board was of the view that the public is not paying for water properly. He said that only 27% citizens are paying their water bills. He said that the department is unable to maintain the system and finding it difficult to pay their staff. The per month water bill for a 120 sq. yard residence is Rs.112. He also presented the alarming statistic that 35% of water is wasted through leakage or water theft in the city. He remarked that the limit of pesticides has increased in the rivers beyond permissible limits that are hazardous for the people.

The deliberations held during the workshop will be followed by consultations in other provinces and will be used to develop a robust and strategic Water Programme for Pakistan by IUCN and Oxfam Novib.

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