Wa­ter pol­icy

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

De­spite fac­ing an acute sit­u­a­tion in the wa­ter sec­tor, no govern­ment in Pakistan has been able to de­velop a na­tional wa­ter pol­icy with the con­sul­ta­tion of all stake­hold­ers. The draft Na­tional Wa­ter Pol­icy was fi­nally taken up by the Coun­cil of Com­mon In­ter­est for ap­proval in 2017 but noth­ing came out of it. In this con­nec­tion it may be men­tioned here that the first draft was pre­pared in 2002-2005, and then an­other at­tempt was made in 2010. This took two years but could not be fi­nal­ized due to the un­re­solved dis­pute over fed­eral ver­sus pro­vin­cial do­main de­bate. The lat­est at­tempt was made in 2015, which fi­nally reach the Coun­cil of Com­mon In­ter­ests. It is in­deed re­gret­table that the coun­try is suf­fer­ing from se­vere wa­ter scarcity, but the govern­ment has not been able to for­mu­late a sound na­tional wa­ter pol­icy. It is rel­e­vant to men­tion here that neigh­bour­ing coun­tries - In­dia, Bangladesh and Nepal - have had their wa­ter poli­cies in place for decades.

Pakistan is fast be­com­ing a wa­ter-scarce coun­try with dearth of stor­ages, while In­dia plans to build more dams on rivers com­ing to Pakistan. So far no work­able wa­ter man­age­ment pol­icy has been put in place and farm­ers are forced to con­sume ground­wa­ter with the help of tube wells to ir­ri­gate their crops, which in­flates power con­sump­tion bills. Faced with in­creas­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, the farm­ers staged a protest in Is­lam­abad last week on the eve of the bud­get for 2017-18 to in­vite at­ten­tion to their plight as the govern­ment seemed to have rel­e­gated the agri­cul­ture sec­tor to the less pri­or­ity zone. In the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year, the agri­cul­ture sec­tor did not grow, fall­ing far short of the tar­get, which had a neg­a­tive im­pact on the over­all na­tional eco­nomic growth rate. In the cur­rent fis­cal year, how­ever, the agri­cul­ture sec­tor grew 3.46% - its high­est level in the past five years.

Ex­perts have warned that Pakistan will face en­ergy and food se­cu­rity chal­lenges in fu­ture as the govern­ment is show­ing lit­tle in­ter­est in wa­ter sup­ply projects, which are closely related with agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion that needs wa­ter as a ma­jor in­put. Pakistan has been fac­ing flood dev­as­ta­tion for many years, but calls for build­ing more wa­ter reser­voirs have fallen on deaf ears. At present, wa­ter stor­age ca­pac­ity of the coun­try is 14 mil­lion acre feet (MAF) whereas an­nual con­sump­tion stands at 117 MAF. Con­sump­tion of 1 MAF of wa­ter has a pos­i­tive im­pact of $1 bil­lion on the econ­omy. Pakistan has been los­ing bil­lions ev­ery year be­cause of wa­ter wastage as reser­voirs are short of the need.

Lit­tle is known about the de­tails of the wa­ter pol­icy which has now been drafted, but ex­perts and in­dus­try in­sid­ers say that the wa­ter pol­icy should have rep­re­sen­ta­tions from all sec­tors and should have all the fol­low­ing as­pects cov­ered: ob­jec­tives, plan of ac­tion, im­ple­men­ta­tion method­olo­gies and the time frame. The coun­try needs to ad­dress wa­ter is­sues in ir­ri­ga­tion as over 90 per­cent of the wa­ter con­sump­tion is in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

Apart from re­form­ing the wa­ter pric­ing for the com­mer­cial and the in­dus­trial sec­tor, the scarce re­source needs to be priced ad­e­quately for the do­mes­tic and house­hold con­sumers as well. In­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment in wa­ter for con­ser­va­tion, re­cy­cling wa­ter treat­ment, waste man­age­ment should also be the govern­ment's top pri­or­i­ties among other in­fra­struc­ture projects. Fi­nally, a lot can be also achieved with pub­lic aware­ness; aware­ness cam­paigns and be­havioural sen­si­ti­sa­tion should rep­re­sent a key area of the Na­tional Wa­ter Pol­icy. The goal of the na­tional wa­ter pol­icy should be to bring wa­ter qual­ity, equal­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity to the fore­front of pub­lic at­ten­tion.

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