National Water Policy

DEPUTY Chairman, Planning Commission, Sartaj Aziz deserves credit for completing work on first draft of the National Water Policy that was reviewed by a high level meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Thursday. The draft policy addresses critical issues of reduction in wastage of water, enhancement of water storage capacity from 14 MAF to at least 28 MAF through a network of small, medium and large-sized storage reservoirs, increasing efficiency of water use by producing more crop per drop, gradual replacement and refurbishing of irrigation infrastructure and setting up of realistic and achievable targets in consultation with the provinces.
Pakistan is counted among water deficient countries and the situation is going to complicate and aggravate further in years to come in view of climate change. Not to speak of long-term challenge in the water sector, there are serious apprehensions that the country would be facing extreme difficulty in meeting needs of drinking water and its domestic use in coming summer due to less rains and snowfall during winter. The policy comes in the backdrop of a serious warning by Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources that the country would run out of water by 2025 if no action was taken now. No doubt, Vision 2025 also envisages water security and aims for increasing water storage capacity, improving agricultural efficiency by 20% and ensuring the availability of clean drinking water to all Pakistanis but unfortunately, so far, we have not moved beyond rhetoric and planning whereas there is dire need to take practical measures to address the challenge. Experts point out that problem of water shortage in Pakistan has gained the momentum as our water storage capacity is only for 30 days and Pakistan has the 4th highest rate of water use in the world. It simply means that water intensity rate – amount of water in cubic meters used per unit of GDP is the world highest and no country’s economy is more water intensive than that of Pakistan. It is highly unfortunate that we planned several major dams and a number of small and medium ones for different parts of the country but practical work not on one of them has started whereas construction would require seven to ten years even if we begin now. That means we are already very late and cannot afford the luxury of waiting further and that too at a time when India is rapidly building water reservoirs on all the rivers flowing to Pakistan.

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