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News / Event Detail
Posted on: Friday, November 20, 2015

Preliminary Report

Roundtable on “Water Security Challenges in Pakistan”

November 11, 2015 at Islamabad Club  

A Roundtable discussion on “Water Security Challenges in Pakistan” organized by Centre for Policy Studies, COMSATS Institute for Information Technology on November 11, 2015 at Islamabad Club. Rector, COMSATS Institute for Information Technology (CIIT), Dr. Syed Junaid Zaidi said that the need of the hour is to generate a societal debate to resolve the water related issues. He added that the Centre for Policy Studies has been drawing attention to various issues of national importance by organizing roundtables, seminars, and lectures by involving various stakeholders including policy makers, donors, academia and civil society.  While extending a very warm welcome to the participants, the Rector said that he is confident that the discussion at the roundtable will result in useful outcomes.

Key note address was delivered by the chief guest, former Agriculture Minister Nawab Muhammad Yusuf Talpur and currently Member, Standing Committee of National Assembly on Water and Power.  The chief guest said that since he is from the lower riparian province, he is subjected to all challenges many times than the upper riparian provinces. He said that due to the unforeseen consequences in India and USA the hydrological cycle has been disturbed leading to various climatic changes. In Jharkand in Mahrashtra, there are 17 dams on one river and all of them dried up. We have two major dams—Mangla and Tarbela while Kalabagh dam was not implemented for various reasons. Thus, water security cycle requires a new look to resolve this issue.

The chief guest added that rainfall has shifted by 200 miles East to West leading to rainfall in Sind and elsewhere. During the next six years there will be more rainfall. This phenomena requires a serious study. WAPDA was supposed to have had a glacier camp to study behavior of glaciers but what happen to that is not yet known. Citing the example of a dam built by WAPDA, he said that the design of Mirani dam was faulty and it had caused damages to local community. Putting the question to the authorities, he said that how you will save the country from floods if India releases water from its dams in rivers Chenab, Beas and Ravi. Will you divert the water to Kalabagh dam to control floods? Opposing the Kalabagh dam further, he said we cannot afford to build it as country is highly indebted and this dam will not add new lands to agriculture like Tarbella.

Dr. Talat Anwar, Advisor, Centre for Policy Studies, CIIT gave a presentation on “Water Crisis in Pakistan”. He highlighted that country is heading toward a water crisis, if timely actions are not taken. Pakistan’s current water availability has declined to 1100 cubic meters per person from 5000 cubic meters in 1951. According to a government policy document—Vision 2025, the country’s water storage capacity is limited to only 30-day supply, well short of the recommended 1000 days.  He added that existing water resources are under threat because of untreated discharge of municipal and industrial wastes to rivers. Unsafe drinking water supply results in high incidence of morbidity and mortality rates, threatens the survival and development of children leading to perpetuation of poverty and death among underprivileged families.

Dr. Anwar underlined further that Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change. Rising temperatures are affecting the glaciers to melt at a higher rate causing floods resulting in water depletion of reserves and ensuing shortages in subsequent years. More than 40% of the population is at risk of natural disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones. Devastating flooding in 2010 which inundated one-fifth of Pakistan and left millions homeless was attributable to climate change. Almost every year we have floods.  Economic losses since 2010 would be around $20 billion which are higher than the foreign loans we have taken during this period. The country faces economic loss of $30-35 billion—upto 14% of GDP per annum because of inadequate water storage capacity and water losses from within watercourses and between canal heads and watercourses.  While water is essential for life, and livelihood in agriculture and industry, the government is neglecting water sector and allocating huge budgetary resources to roads and high ways including projects like metro buses. There is a need to set the priorities right in order to save the country from floods and droughts in future.

Mr. Imtiaz Qizalbash, formerly Chief Engineer and designate Chairman, WAPDA said that the Ranking Study of the sites on the Indus had selected nine sites, and ranked Basha dam as the best in 1980s followed by Dasu, Bunji,Thahkot, Pattan etc. Ignoring these hydel projects has led to grave shortages not only of electricity, but also of water. By not building dams led to regular flooding in the summer, causing loss of life and property and shortages of water for agriculture in the winter. The Kalabagh lobby has also greatly contributed by stridently insisting only on Kalabagh impeding all other hydel projects. When we need huge amounts of power and water storages capacity why only one project of 3600 MW has become an obsession? For the sake of this one project there is often talk of no consensus and thus no progress.

Mr. Qizalbash added that Pakistan has 14 mega very large water power projects. There are 87 identified sizeable projects. It is wrong to suggest that there is no consensus on building dams. All these water power projects are non-controversial except one—Kalabagh. How long we have to keep our water power development hostage to one project?  Hydroelectricity is the cheapest, cleanest and indigenous source of energy. Our hydel potential is 65,000 MW with a storage capacity of 53.61 maf. It may even be about 100,000 MW. What is needed is to give the highest priority to water power development. No other source, nuclear, oil, gas, coal,wind  or solar can compete. It is imperative that we accelerate the programme of massive water power development to add 15,000 MW in the next 5 years, 30,000 MW in 10 years and 50,000 MW in the next 15. This is the only way we can have affordable and abundant electricity along with required water storage in order to make the economy strong.

Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources gave a presentation on “Managing Water Scarcity in Pakistan: Moving Beyond Rhetoric”. He highlighted the severity of the water scarcity in the country. He said that major causes of water scarcity included increased population, urbanization, industrial and agricultural activities. Water shortfall that was 11% in 2004 will increase to 31% by 2025.  We have inadequate water harvesting and storage facilities only 10% of the average annual flow.

Dr. Ashraf added that we have unutilized potentials of hill torrents, Sailaba – 18 MAF which can be captured by increasing storage capacity and improving water governance by constructing small and large dams. In addition, we need to improve the surface water governance with proper pricing, legislate and restrict indiscriminate groundwater abstraction.  

Dr. Shahid Zia, a representative and Water Expert from Pakistan Tehrik-Insaf (PTI) expressed the viewpoints of PTI about water scarcity in the country. He said that PTI attaches great importance to the water sector. We have specialized tasks force working on these issue. While there is no a lack of understanding of the subject, what is lacking is the political will to address the water sector issues. No serious effort has been made in the past to address these issues. We keep suffering from floods every year without adequate infrastructure to minimize the losses from floods because government does not have a long term strategy.

Talking on water storage, Dr. Zia said that three rivers almost dried in Punjab but when India releases, we have floods in these rivers water. If Punjab government invested some funds to use the river belt for flood storage water, we would be able to reduce the loss of floods by increasing the storage capacity.

We are stuck around one controversial Kalabagh dam. We have been focusing on the supply side while ignoring the demand side. About 90% water supply goes to Agriculture Sector. In cotton growing areas, we see sugar cane harvesting on political basis. We can produce cotton more efficiently than sugar cane.  The successive governments have been taking political decisions and they have never tried to address the demand side of the water problem. Water security is not just about water storage but also about a good comprehensive planning around underground water, surface water and flow of water to drought areas.

Mr. Ishtehqaq Ahmed, Chief Engineer on behalf of Chairman WAPDA gave a presentation on “Water Security & Climate Change”. He said that climate change phenomena posed a major threat to food, water and energy security in the country. It has induced the melting of glaciers, cyclonic storm surges, tropical diseases and epidemics, flash floods, droughts and variable monsoons, which had become “an inevitable reality for Pakistan over the past many years”. There is a need for devising and implementing appropriate adaptation measures so that country can ensure its water, food and energy security and minimize the impact of natural disasters on human life, health and property.

Under climate change scenario, Pakistan would have extreme detrimental impact on water resources. Various model studies indicate global warming can accelerate glacier melting and change the monsoon pattern and may result in water reduction by 30 to 40%. Therefore, WAPDA has accorded top priority to develop new water resources projects. By constructing Indus Cascade Projects devised by WAPDA, the country will have the ability to end extreme poverty even in the face of climate change. Some of the projects have been completed and others are at implementation stages.

Major General Asghar Nawaz, Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority said that the thrust line of the discussion on water is the security because scarcity of water would lead to a situation of economic insecurity. He said that if we invest $1.7 billion now, we could save $10 billion loss in future as the country had faced $10 billion loss in 2010 floods. He added that conserving the water requires more dams especially in 8 most hill torrents areas which is a big challenge for the country. We need to increase water storage capacity as 33 MAF water is going down side the Kotri to the sea.

Dr. Gulfraz Ahmad, former Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said that there is a need to resolve water sharing issues between the provinces. Water sharing issues between provinces can be resolved like more contentious revenue sharing issues which were settled with consensus by agreeing on new NFC Award formula by all provinces.

In the end, Ambassador Fauzia Nasreen, Head CPS gave a vote of thanks to the speakers and participants and underlined the need to address the water security challenges. She said that the larger issues of construction of new dams and reservoirs though necessary for our debate, require political consensus keeping in view the increasing scarcity of water which will affect all regions of the country. It is a question of our survival as demand for water and associated multifaceted complexities will create problems for peace and stability of the country. She said that regrettably we do not have a National Water Policy. The draft of this policy is yet to be approved. However, the Prime Minister’s initiative in this regard will provide the requisite urgency to finalizing it.



MEDIA NEWS:


ISLAMABAD: In the wake of declining per capita water availability, Pakistan needs to go ahead construction of dams on 87 identified sites with the capacity to generate 65000MW electricity and 53 million acre feet (MAF) storage capacity instead of focusing only on controversial Kalabagh Dam, water experts said.

 

A roundtable discussion on “Water Security Challenges in Pakistan” was organised by Centre for Policy Studies and COMSATS Institute for Information Technology during this week. Rector, CIIT, Dr. Syed Junaid Zaidi said in his welcome address that the need of the hour is to generate a societal debate to resolve the water related issues.

 

Imtiaz Qazalbash, formerly chief Engineer Wapda said that unfortunately debate remains around a controversial Kalabagh project but we had identified 87 major hydroelectric projects of 65000MW with 53 million acre feet storage MAF in the Planning Commission. These projects need to be focused, he added.

 

Key note address was delivered by former Agriculture Minister Nawab Muhammad Yusuf Talpur and Member, Standing Committee of National Assembly on Water and Power.

 

While opposing Kalabagh dam, he said that when there was no water available so there was no need to construct controversial dams. He said that due to the unforeseen consequences in India and USA the hydrological cycle has been disturbed leading to various climatic changes.

 

In Jharkand in Mahrashtra, there are 17 dams on one river and all of them dried up. We have two major dams—Mangla and Tarbela while Kalabagh dam was not implemented for various reasons. Thus, water security cycle requires a new look to resolve this issue.

 

Dr. Talat Anwar, Adviser, COMSATS highlighted that country is heading toward a water crisis, if timely actions are not taken. Pakistan’s current water availability has declined to 1100 cubic meters per person from 5000 cubic meters in 1951. The country’s water storage capacity is limited to only 30-day supply, well short of the recommended 1000 days. He said that country faces economic loss of $30-35 billion up to 14% of GDP per annum because of inadequate water storage capacity and water losses from within watercourses and between canal heads and watercourses.

 

While water is essential for life, and livelihood in agriculture and industry, the government is neglecting water sector and allocating huge budgetary resources to roads and highways including projects like metro buses. There is a need to set the priorities right in order to save the country from floods and droughts in future.

 

Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Chairman, PCRWR said that we need to increase storage capacity and improve water governance by constructing small and large dams, improve the surface water governance with proper pricing, legislate and restrict indiscriminate groundwater abstraction. Other panelists Dr. Shahid Zia, a representative and water expert from PTI and Istehqaq Ahmed, Chief Engineer, Wapda emphasised the government to accelerate its efforts for setting up new water reservoirs.

URL: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-351195-Country-needs-87-dams-to-generate-65000MW-power-say-experts

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