We share our bath-pit (it’s not a tub, it’s a pit, in an old house) with Lizzie, a tiny lizard. In this heat it needed water too, so one fine day there it was, and since it’s a very thoughtful, sharing sort of lizard and pulls its legs in when we’re in the pit to make space for us and shifts around obligingly when the pit is cleaned, we…well, we let it stay. Water, after all, is important, and we like to share ours.
Lizzie does not approve of the water brouhaha in this country every year. This whole tussle about ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ and who stole water from whom…‘whatever happened to the common interests of all?’ says Lizzie.
Pakistan’s water dispute with India involves both countries, and is therefore out of the lone hands of either to that extent. What stops this dispute from being resolved when it arises between the provinces of the same country however? Shoddy governance, or the lack of it?
Presently, the river Indus provides most of Pakistan’s water. The country’s per capita availability of water dwindled from what it was in the 1950s to one fourth in 2002, and much further subsequently. Most of this dwindling water is used for agricultural purposes, not always wisely. It is due to inefficient drainage that much of Pakistan’s agricultural land suffers from water logging and salinity. And yet, it appears according to a report compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) in 2011 that Pakistan owes 24% of national GDP, 48% employment and 70% of its exports to agriculture.
Floods in 2010 caused damage worth billions to Pakistan’s agricultural economy. Sadly, we were able to salvage nothing, not even lessons, nor even store some of that flood water. The water came, caused untold tragedy, and went away, leaving the country devastated, once again among the water impoverished nations of the world, once again facing the probability of floods this year, still without any adequate provisions for water storage, drainage, flood defence, or any other contingency planning. Even the report produced by PILDAT was sponsored by the British High Commission.
The distribution of water has always been a source of contention between the provinces of Pakistan. The dispute continues despite the water apportionment accord signed between the provinces in 1991 due to different interpretations of the pact by each signatory. KP feels it does not receive its share of the water, Punjab reckons that as the hub of agriculture it ought to get more, Sindh accuses the Punjab of stealing its share, and Baluchistan says much the same to Sindh.
Clearly we need a bit of lizard logic in this issue.
The fact remains that Punjab is the agricultural centre of the country. Until solutions are found to the issue, the different provinces would do well to remember this, while the Punjab would do well to remember that it is not the only province that requires water.
Also, unless solutions are found to the problem of storage, waters of the Indus will continue to dwindle and soon there will be nothing to quarrel about. Sindh, in fact, should almost rename the Mighty Indus to something that better reflects its sad state within that province: maybe the ‘Iddly Piddly Indus Pond.’
More than the Indus dolphins have suffered due to this sad depletion of water. Entire communities such as fishermen living along and off the river, and ecosystems such as mangrove swamps have also been wiped out.
The responsibility for this situation rests squarely on the shoulders of the successive governments of this country who have failed miserably to bring about consensus and institute updated and more successful methods for water distribution and storage. Existing dams are silted up and largely unusable due to age and poor maintenance, and the building of further dams, even those such as the Kalabagh dam which is ready to go, has been granted little priority and less effort.
PILDATs report recommends a dialogue between all stakeholders; farmers, water experts, and elected representatives, supported by research and accurate information.
Facilitating such dialogue for this most crucial issue ought to be very high on the government’s priority list, right up there with education and health, well over and above defence. The mouthpiece of the government’s priority list, however, proclaims Kashmir to be the nation’s jugular vein, the convenient and hysterical mantra that is produced as a smoke screen for a list that has no national interests in sight.
It is something to be considered: if you employed a cook who did not cook at all, just ate everything in the fridge, would you keep him?
Transfer that to a government which provides no governance whatsoever.
Lizzie finds it all very shocking and agrees emphatically that such governments ought to be turfed out.