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Ministry of Planning and Development organise International Conference on Water for Life and Development

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Islamabad, June 28, 2013 (PPI-OT): Ministry of Planning and Development organized International Conference on Water for Life and Development. Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Development was the Chief Guest. Confernce was organized by the help of UNESCO and JICA. Representatives of different international organizations along with experts participated in this conference. Purpose of this conference was to address the water related issues, flood management, early warning system, climatic change, droughts and water management issues.

Addressing the conference Prof. Ahsan Iqbal Said how Planning Commission was taking the issue of Water Management. He said There was absolutely no doubt that problems related to water and environment had a critical impact on the development and prosperity of this country. He said, “The problems are complex and interlinked.

In view of the global warming and climate change, I feel it is vitally important for Pakistan to review its gaps in whole exercise of flood management starting from its warning system to institutional arrangements, to adaptation, coordination, community resilience and post-event rehabilitation arrangements.

I am sure that this conference would look into all these aspects and update all the SOPs for an effective flood management plan taking into consideration the climate change impacts. I hope the experts would keep in mind the climate change impacts as Pakistan is already facing it and the recent events of 1997-2002 droughts followed by exceptional floods of 2010 are testimony to it.

Flood management is one of the sub-sets of Integrated Water Resources Management which is a global challenge. These water challenges were identified by the Panel of International Experts commissioned by the Secretary General, United Nations and it was the consensus decision of the experts that the major challenge that world would face in the 21st century would be scarcity of water. It was also predicted that future wars would not be on borders but on waters. The experts were of the opinion that water availability on the globe is a finite element and there is no technology available to add additional water in the system”.

He further added, “Even from regional perspective, it is the distortion of uneven water quantum that offers biggest challenge. So it is not the scarcity of water, it is the management of water over the globe”.

While quoting some figures he said,”I would now return to see how we are managing our water resources in Pakistan. Pakistan is one of the most arid countries in the world. Over 75% of it receives rainfall less than 250 mm annually and 20% of it less than 125 mm. The population and economy are heavily dependent on an annual influx into Indus River System of about 154.88 MAF of water mostly derived from snow and glacier melt”.

While taking the issue of water security he said,”Pakistan is going to face water management challenges. Population growth by the year 2025 Pakistan would have a population of 225 million i.e. 45 million more than what we have today – what does that means – it simply means to accommodate this additional population, Pakistan has to establish 8-more mega cities each having population equivalent to Lahore. From where we are going to get water for these cities?

We have been diverting 104 MAF of water for irrigated agriculture. This amount is continuously reducing due to sedimentation of the reservoirs. To date we have lost almost 4.6 MAF of live storage in our reservoirs which is slightly more than the existing live storage of Mangla Dam.

Another major issue is the per capita availability of water. At the time of partition water availability per capita was more than5,000 cubic meters which would decline to around 800 cubic meters in near future, a situation where human survival becomes difficult and economic development also come to a halt. In addition we also have serious issue of water logging and salinity”.

He said “These are the serious issues and challenges that we have to address without waste of further time. In spite of the bleak water situation, we keep on using water recklessly. Let me highlight some of the uses and the returns we get out of these uses:

Pakistan’s productivity per unit of water and per unit of land is one of the lowest in the world. Similarly Pakistan’s return to GDP of one cubic meter is also lowest in the world. Against world average of US$ 8.6, Pakistan’s one cubic meter of water contributes only US 34 Cents to its GDP.

Similarly storage per person in Pakistan is 73 cubic meter as against America’s 6,150 cubic meter per person and Australia’s5,000 cubic meters per person.

The carry over capacity in Pakistan has now depleted to 18 days as compared Egypt’s 1,000 days and India’s 220 days.

For better water management, 40% of total water availability is required for storage, Pakistan’s storage capacity is only about 7% of total available water.”

He further said, “How are we going to survive under such conditions is a big question mark. Pakistan’s dependence on single river system is highly vulnerable and has little flexibility as compared to most of the countries that enjoyed by virtue of multiple river basins and diversity of water resources. If the water/sediment/salt system of the Indus Basin goes badly wrong, that’s it – and unfortunately we are very close to it.

There is no additional water to be injected into the system and there is no feasible intervention which would enable Pakistan to appreciably mobilize more water that it now uses. Pakistan uses more than 90% of water for irrigation. Non-agricultural water uses are going to increase manifold in future”.

While addressing the conference he said that they we seriously looking towards the issue of overpopulation and impending threat faced by it. And that planning commission was looking at a single drop of water to make best use of it for coming generations. He said that they were planning to convert Planning Commission into a highly professional body of expert by turning it into a think tank.

He further said ,”I can assure you that the recommendations which would emerge out of two days of this conference would help us to get more prepared to handle floods with reduced damages and enhanced benefits. I feel we should work to conserve flood waters for their utilization in water scared areas by storing in surface reservoirs on recharging ground water aquifers.

The outcome of this international conference is not the recommendations you made. It is the value addition and improved efficiency brought into the system by software solutions emerging from your recommendations. Therefore, I alert the Pakistani counterparts to work hard to translate these activities into a reality”

In the end he also appreciated Mr. Naseer Gillani, Chief Water Planning Commission, who was the main organiser behind this conference.

For more information, Contact:
Planning and Development Department
Civil Secretariat,
Tel: 0092 42 -9210480


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