The government on Thursday launched the draft of the National Water Policy for public debate.
The document, which has remained under consideration since the last decade, lays down outlines for an integrated water management strategy to maximise economic returns on water resource development.
The Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif said at the launching ceremony that Pakistan was fast becoming a water stressed country. As fresh water resources were widely available for free use and there is consideration for efficient use. “We need a behaviour change to protecting our fresh water resources. We have asked the World Bank to help us in efficient use of water resources and they will help us in preparing a strategy,” he said.
India, he said, is responsible for most of our water woes because it is the upper riparian, but this is only one reason. The other reason is the failure to develop new reservoirs and inefficient water usage. India tries to play smart but we have to compete and increase our competence, he said.
The situation highlights the need for a policy document to regulate and safely operate scarce ground water resources, as well as underground resources, which could be affected if no new intervention and investment is made in the sector.
The policy aims at doubling the value of agriculture output, tripling the hydropower electricity generation, reducing by half the areas affected by floods, and treating all waste water. It calls for implementing a telemetry system, redesigning barrages, penalising polluters and establishing a national water information bureau to address provincial concerns over developing new water reservoirs and canals.
A presentation by WAPDA’s Water Wing said that Pakistan at present has water storage for only 30 days as compared to India’s storage of 200 days. The addition of Diamir Bhasha dam alone will provide storage of 18 days. Pakistan aims to have storage of up to 90 days.
WAPDA officials said the main priority was the construction of new reservoirs. Pakistan has capable manpower and materials to develop these reservoirs but the most vital lacking element is money. Investment is required at the earliest as the 200 years old irrigation system requires more money for upgrades that can satisfy the current requirements.
Chairman IRSA Rao Irshad that Sindh and Balochistan will be the main beneficiaries of the new reservoirs as their share will substantially increase. He questioned the decision of releasing 30 million acre feet (MAF) of fresh water downstream to Kotri every year.
In economic terms the value of 1MAF of water is equal to Rs 60 billion and by releasing 30 MAF we are wasting $ 18 billion to sea and begging for $ 5 billion for a three years programme from the IMF, he said adding that the wastage is continuing since the last 40 years.