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Call to reassess water governance

Along with transparent analyses of water intake and outflow, the government should concentrate on water storage and management.

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Water has now become a commodity in many parts of the world. Due to the fact that water is necessary for all living things, this is an issue in and of itself.

Instead of being equally and fairly accessible to everyone, water mafias have developed all across the world and have taken control of this vital resource.

In Pakistan, climate change and water governance are going to impact the availability of water resources in the coming years.

The fundamental right to life and liberty is enshrined in Article 9 of the Pakistani Constitution. The higher courts in Pakistan have expanded on this right to include water. The Supreme Court stated in a judgment that everyone has a right to get clean water.

According to the Doctrine of Public Trust, which was established by the court in 2005 Groundwater is considered a national resource that belongs to all of society, and as such, the government is required to conserve it for the benefit of all citizens.

Recent water shortages highlight the need for swifter implementation of Pakistan’s first and most comprehensive National Water Policy (NWP), which was approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and signed by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country’s then-prime minister, and the chief ministers of the provinces on April 24, 2018.

The National Water Policy (NWP) addresses a wide range of water-related issues, including the population explosion’s impact on water availability and quality, rising demands from all user sectors, water loss during transportation, excessive groundwater extraction, outdated irrigation techniques that cause agriculture to consume more than 80% of available water, deteriorating water infrastructure, and policy and management gaps.

It considers how climate change may affect water supplies, particularly if extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and heat waves become more frequent, more severe, and persist longer.

Pakistan’s population growth has had an adverse effect on the amount of surface water that is available per capita in the country. The amount of water available per capita has decreased from 5,260 m3 in 1951 to approximately 1,000 m3 in 2016, and it is extremely probable that this number would further decrease to approximately 860 m3 by 2025, changing Pakistan’s classification from “water-stressed” to “water scarce.”

The National Water Policy proposes a system for managing shared watersheds and trans-boundary aquifers. Additionally, it suggests researching regional responses to Pakistan’s rising susceptibility to water-related catastrophes as a result of trans-boundary water releases and stoppages.

Read more: Why Pakistan’s water crisis needs urgent attention?

According to Shafqat Kakakhel, the chairperson of the SDPI’s board and former Assistant Secretary General of the UN, to achieve main targets given in the NWP from 2020-29, which include control of conveyance, increasing amount of stored water from the current 14 MAF to 24 MAF, deploying micro-irrigation techniques to increase water efficiency, monitoring the real time flow of rivers through telemetric technology and a standardized and transparent mechanism of data collection of water resources.

“To achieve the afore-mentioned targets, the NWP requires that at least 10 percent of the Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) be allocated to the water sector, gradually increasing it to 20 per cent by 2030. It also calls upon the provinces to increase their respective allocations for the water sector.

The water sector received only 4% of funds in the PSDP for 2017-2018.For 2022-2023, this allocation has been increased to 11.3 per cent – Rs91.6 billion out of a total PSDP of Rs800 billion.”

Shafqat Kakakhel notes that “The prime minister should convene a meeting of the National Water Council as early as possible to review the state of implementation of the NWP and approve a roadmap for enhanced action with timelines for the federal and provincial governments.”

Along with transparent analyses of water intake and outflow conducted in each province, government should concentrate on water storage and management. To prevent Pakistan from experiencing a water catastrophe, there must be a strong political will. Otherwise the looming water crisis can escalate into conflicts within units of the country.

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