Bringing distributive justice in water management is need of the hour to overcome water scarcity, especially in the South Asian region.
Without a comprehensive understanding of real and multidimensional value of water, safeguarding this critical resource for the benefit of everyone would not be a possibility.
The experts from water, environment and agriculture sectors said this while sharing their views with the participants of online regional dialogue ‘Valuing water for achieving sustainable development goal 6 (Water and Sanitation),’ held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Former Minister for Water Resources in Nepal, Dr Dipak Gyawali, while sharing his views in regional perspective of water management, said that from trans-boundary to a village level, the conflicts on water issues would always be there due to its being precious and irreplaceable natural resource. He said we often confine to surface water (blue water) while talking of water conservation.
Brown water (underground water) and white water (clouds and glaciers) are equally important and should be conserved, he opined.
Dr Gyawali said “Policies pertaining water need to be pluralized while taking aboard all voices.”
The point that we need to consider while dealing with the water issues is that there cannot be a complete consensus on any solution and therefore, we need to reach at certain compromises for the collective betterment, he concluded.
While linking water issues with COVID-19 pandemic time challenges, Ms Vanita Suneja, Regional Advocacy Manager, WaterAid South Asia, opined that the messaging, especially about hands hygiene to contain the spread of virus has reminded us the access to water and entailing inequality.
She added that it was ironic that despite higher emphasize on value of water during the pandemic and messaging around it, there is no visible increase in the public funding on water, especially in South Asian countries.
She said that including all stakeholders in decision-making pertaining water issues is imperative for effective water management.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, highlighted the multidimensionality of water usage and said that water has become even important amidst Covid-19 for health (hand washing), food security (agriculture), and livelihoods (energy).
He suggested that Dr Gyawali should take a lead in updating quarter century old, “South Asia water manifesto”; a document that water experts in South Asia prepared in 1997 for just distribution of water across the region.
“It is our collective responsibility to pass on this precious resource to our future generations”, said Dr Suleri.
Vice Chancellor, Sindh Agriculture University, Dr Fateh Mari, was of the view that water efficiency is quite low in Pakistan and we need to focus on improving water usage by overcoming several challenges ranging from governance to cultural.
The climate change has rendered effective water management as a more urgent issue, and we need to respond it through behavioral change.
Therefore, from academia to civil society, a broader engagement is need of the hour to achieve it, he concluded.
Mr Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a progressive farmer who is using modern technology for water-efficient farming, on the occasion highlighted that affordability is a major challenge for most of the farmers to adapt to modern agricultural techniques.
He said that techniques such as drip irrigation could play vital role in efficient usage of water.
However, we need to bring these techniques within access to all farmers by reducing their cost, he added.