Pakistan’s water priorities

CARETAKER Minister for Information and Water Resources Syed Ali Zafar has said that the Caretaker Government, in consultation with international experts and various local departments, has finalised a 10-point reform package for our water priorities. Addressing a news conference in the Capital on Monday, he also alleged foreign involvement in the opposition to construction of Kalabagh Dam and asked the incoming government to work on building a consensus on it.
There is no doubt that the country needs a comprehensive approach to meet its ever growing water needs and ever-shrinking water availability due to a variety of factors including drought-like conditions and wholesale construction of water reservoirs by India even on rivers meant for Pakistan under Indus Basin Water Treaty. It is because of this situation that Pakistan has been declared as water scarce country as its per capita water availability had dropped to 1,000 cubic meters. The Minister wisely advised the coming government to give top priority to water sector reforms encompassing construction of Kalabagh, Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams. Kalabagh is technically most viable, cost effective and ready to be built in the minimum possible time but unfortunately it has been politicised and as the Chief Justice of Pakistan talked about building consensus on the dam, some lobbies have become active again to undermine its prospects.
Syed Ali Zafar has a point when he says anti-KBD conferences arranged abroad were better organised and seemed far better funded than the seminars held in Pakistan, which shows that some foreign powers were behind the opposition to the dam. It is, however, regrettable that both the government and the civil society in Pakistan seem to be less effective than our enemy who is bent upon depriving Pakistan of all opportunities to tap its water resources and secure its future. Some governments, in the past, made half-hearted efforts to building consensus and as a consequence ended up generating more controversies. However, there are other priorities, which have not been pursued by the successive governments like lining of canals, use of modern irrigation techniques, water conservation through small and medium sized dams and creating awareness among people to stop wastage of scarce water resource. Next government should sincerely pursue all these options.

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