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Water crisis in Pakistan: SC seeks investment proposals from SBP for dam construction


News Analysis |

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday has directed the authorities to receive proposals for the constructions of Dams. Account to local media reports, the top court sought investment proposals from State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in respect to the collected funds for construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams excluding treasury bonds. During the hearing, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) chairman submitted a report regarding the construction of dams and said that the purchasing process had been completed and the foundation stone laying ceremony would be held in March this year.

A five-member special bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and comprised Justice Umar Ata Banial, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Ahmed, heard the case regarding construction of Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams.

Earlier on January 10, the SC had constituted a special committee–including two directors of SBP and an SC official– to look after the funds started by former CJP for the dams. The bench also appointed two amicus curiae – Makhdoom Ali Khan and Dr. Pervaiz Hassan – to assist the court regarding dam funds use.

The World Economic Forum has published a report in 2018 titled ‘Regional Risks for Doing Business’, which has listed imminent risks to the South Asian nations as well.

SC also directed the Chairman Federal Board of Revenue, Jahanzeb Khan to propose on how the money collected by the government on mobile phone charges and taxes on bottling water and beverage companies could be used for the dam funds.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Chairman FBR apprised court that the amount collected as tax from mobile service could be collected as levy and deposited into Dam Fund only with the express consent of the mobile phone users from whom amount was charged and that legislation would be required for such process.

SC ordered admonishing the SBP official during the hearing ordered to submit more than one proposal pertaining to the investment of the Dam Fund amount as a lot of options were available in the market. Later, the court adjourned the hearing until April 10.

Read more: Pakistan’s water crisis: expensive and deadly

It is important to mention here that the former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had said that water shortage was the “top priority” of the court and took a Suo Motu notice of the matter. Justice Sardar Tariq Masood also regretted that none of the political parties had taken the water issue seriously enough to include it in their manifestos. Former CJP also paid a visit to the UK for fundraising and he maintained that his only wish was to construct dams to save the future of the country.

Moreover, PM Khan appealed to the overseas Pakistanis and said that “if every overseas Pakistani donates $1,000, we will have enough to build the dams ourselves.” He also assured the donors that he [PM] will be responsible to use their money fairly to construct dams. Mr. Khan cites the example of Egypt, which he said had launched a similar drive to build dams using its own resources.

Water Crisis in Pakistan

Some reports prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) have alarmed that the country will reach absolute water scarcity by the year 2025.

The present government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is making serious efforts to upgrade environmental condition and do needful to deal with the water crisis.

The UN report also highlights that the most immediate threats would be water unavailability to the masses and Neil Buhne, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Pakistan said, “No person in Pakistan, whether from the north with its more than 5,000 glaciers, or from the south with its ‘hyper deserts’, will be immune to this.” The report was quoted by several Pakistani newspaper and government agencies to create awareness about the alarming situation of water in the country.

World Economic Forum’s Report

According to the latest report of World Economic Forum if Pakistan does not address the water crisis challenge, the primary threat to Pakistan’s economy, in time it is likely to face a tough time in the future. The World Economic Forum has published a report in 2018 titled ‘Regional Risks for Doing Business’, which has listed imminent risks to the South Asian nations as well.

Read more: National Bank aims to fight water shortage in Pakistan

It is reported that Pakistan is facing an imminent water crisis as official projections show the country, whose population has increased fivefold since 1960 to some 207 million, will run dry by 2025 when they will be facing an “absolute scarcity” of water with less than 500 cubic meters available per person.

Moreover, the reports are attributing the crisis to climate change and poor management around the country. Due to lack of attention and political will in Pakistan, there could have been no new dams to manage the country’s water crisis. Experts suggest that this is an alarming situation and Pakistan needs to focus on developing a comprehensive policy mechanism to address the challenge.

Read more: Pakistan’s biggest water reservoir hits dead level

The present government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is making serious efforts to upgrade environmental condition and do needful to deal with the water crisis. Therefore, analysts hope that in the near future Pakistan will be able to manage the question of water scarcity in the country.

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