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President-CJP called for measures on water conservation

20 October, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan can be faced with water scarcity in the future as resources of the country are depleting at an alarming rate, said Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar while addressing a two-day International Symposium on Creating a Water-Secure Pakistan at the Auditorium of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday.

He said judiciary is playing its role to save the country’s resources, adding that the top court has taken notices over issues that cause water resources of the country to deplete, including deforestation and companies that exhaust available stocks.

Talking about global warming, Justice Nisar said glaciers are melting at a rapid pace. All of these factors call for citizens to take measures to save water, he added.

The chief justice said efforts are being made on an emergency basis for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam. “This is the reason why a fund was created since we lack the resources for construction of big dams.”

No steps were taken in the past on water resources, but now everyone has to play their part to save the country from drought and famine.

In his address, President Dr Arif Alvi stressed the need for building large water reservoirs in the country to meet its rapidly depleting water resources and shortage, and warned of serious water conflicts in the society, if no timely action was taken.

“Pakistan’s water storage capacity is limited to only 30 days, which is reducing with time due to sedimentation. In case new water reservoirs are not constructed, the irrigation supplies would reduce substantially,” the president said.

The President also called for measures for water conservation and its management to preserve its depleting water resources besides building aquifers, and delay action dams.

He said Pakistan was blessed with a confluence of streams and rivers and had one of the best canal irrigation systems in the world. However, he regretted that previous governments failed to take stock of the situation.

He said the canal system was not expanded to compensate for the new demand and the shortfall was met with ground pumping, leading to decrease in water table across the country, especially in Balochistan.

He said water availability for agriculture, industry and even for household was depleting and Pakistan may become a water stressed country, if remedial measures were not taken.

The President mentioned the ever-widening gap between demand and supply of power generation and said that energy shortfall was seriously hampering the industrial growth, stunting GDP and depleting foreign reserves.

He also pointed to the circular debt owing to over reliance on thermal rather than hydel means of power production and said according to NEPRA`s 2015 State of Industry report, Pakistan had the potential of generating 40,000 megawatt of hydro power.

President Dr Arif Alvi mentioned that around two million residents of Tharparkar and Cholistan areas were drought ridden and impoverished, who he said amplify the human side of that problem. The situation, he said, was a sign of how bleak things could become in other parts of the country in case adequate “water management measures” were not adopted.

“Water is life … and we as a nation, need to conserve it … preserve it for our present and future generations,” he said.

President Dr Arif Alvi lauded the initiative taken by the chief justice of Pakistan at this crucial juncture and established the “Dam Fund”. He said Rs6.4 billion had so far been generated in the fund which he said spoke volumes of the enthusiasm and trust shown by the countrymen. “I take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the nation for being the bastion of this noble cause.”

President Alvi said the government had started dedicated efforts for water conservation and management, which would require a synergised approach based on integrated water resources management principles. “We need to work with the whole of the nation approach and I am confident that with commitment, dedication and hard work we shall achieve our objectives.”

He said management of water was not merely limited to national interests, but also constituted a major component of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

He urged the government to adopt best practices to building of water reservoirs and dams, planning for water conservation, water audit techniques, water pricing, enhancing the irrigation efficiency and water productivity. He also asked the government to work on water reuse and recycling methods, satellite telemetry system for equitable distribution, adoption of drip and sprinkler irrigation techniques. He also urged upon the relevant education departments to make water conservation techniques part of the school curriculum so that children who are the biggest stakeholders of this country’s future are made aware of proper usage of water and are made “water wise”.

President Alvi said Pakistan should also make efforts towards safeguarding its “water rights” and said issue (s) pertaining to the Indus Water Treaty were one such example. This, he said, would require meticulous thinking and engaging with neighbours to avoid potential conflicts in the future.

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