Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pakistan Water Woes

Pakistan’s Water Woes.
Dr Meher A. Zaidi.
As Pakistan faces acute water shortages and crises in distribution and division of water resources occurring, the following misunderstandings need to be cleared , problems addressed and clear solutions and remedial plans of actions  made to be taken .
1.    The Indus  Water Treaty / partition of waterheads and river flows in Pakistan:
On Pakistan’s creation in 1947, the Punjab was an irrigated heartland and supplied by rivers Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej. A treaty between India and Pakistan was negotiated bt the World Bank to give Pakistan the rights to use water in Indus, Jhelum, Chenab which comprises some 75% of the whole flow of the Indus water system.Large dams like Tarbela were built and link canals were built which supplied Punjab’s agricultural  fields. India eventually built dams over the rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej water heads which emanate in India and China. Eventually these rivers have run dry in Pakistan.
The debate raging in Pakistan and especially the Sindh province which is at the tail end of Indus, is that what is the future of this river and why was the Indus Water Treaty negotiated in which we sold these rivers to India. Recently due to stoppage of water in large areas in Pakistani Punjab, large crops were destroyed and effected the already deteriorating economic situation.
2.    Sindh is opposing the Kalabagh dam as there is  a perception that it’s construction will further decrease downstream flow to Sindh province, particularly the deltaic area.
(see article Sindh’s opposition to dams by Akhtar Ali
3.    Pakistan is already  one of the most water stressed countries in  Asia, and according to the     World Bank due to a high population growth, water will become a scarce commodity.
How does water become scarce in Pakistan?
Pakistan is one of the world’s most arid countries. The average rainfall is under 240 mm per year.The Indus river system supplies 180 billion cubic meters of water.the population is 160 million people. As there is only one river system which caters to the whole country, the decrease in rainfall, environmental effects, wastage of water and misuse will result in acute water scarcity.
4.    salinity is a major problem.approximately 15 million tons of salt are accumulating in the Indus basin every year, and the saline water ingresses into overpumped fresh water aquifers. Delta is degrading by silt and ocean is coming up. Pollution, industrial waste and agricultural pesticide use is also affectingthe quality of water for drinking purposes.( See Guidelines for drinking water quality.
5.    The massive disconnect between public, bureaucracy and policy makers adds to the already chaotic deficiency in indigenous experts  on water management. Due to the lack of problem- solving and  consensus building approach, the water woes are compounding.
Recently on a  Karachi visit, the president made some statement about cutting down Punjab’s water in certain river and a very pungent conflict situation developed between Sindh and Punjab. This somehow ‘put the lid on’ situation is controlled for a while  but the simmering continues. Lack of political consensus leads to lack of political will.
6.    Governance issues are affecting the  implementation of quality projects. The world Bank states that the factors affecting implementation are;
·       Weak planning and management.
·       Litigation related to land acquisition
·       Non-compliance with agreed resettlement and rehabilitation programs
·       Lack of attention to environmental issues
·       Delays in procurement.
·       Delays in preparation of accounts and carrying out audits
·       Lack of preparation for transition from construction to operation.

7.    Financing problems of water infrastructure. Corruption is also a major  hurdle here as there is a lack of transparency in all such programs.
8.    India produces more crops per acre per cubic meter of water while Pakistan has much less productivity.

Solutions and Plans of Actions on Some of the Above Mentioned Problems:

The need for urgent action on solutions ha sto be taken as conflict resolution measures as Pakistan is already riddled with conflicts and add to it the future of food shortages and we will be unable to handle any conflicts.
We have to take the  ‘Problem Solving and Consensus Building Approach’
The first priority is developing a socio-political consensus of all the stakeholder provinces and building an adequate political will to resolve the water division issues.
President Zardari and the Pakistan Peoples Party stand at the advantageous prepice of history today, where they will be able to solve the  Sindh’s water issue and amicably resolve the conflict of opposition to dams and develop building of Dam’s infrastructure for the benefit  of Pakistan as a whole.
For the first time in Pakistan’s history and at a crucial  juncture, the World Bank and ADB and all the other developmental bodies should help Pakistan build it’s water infrastructure as a representative government is in place to carry out a consensus approach.
This opportunity lost will be disaster.due to environmental effects, the glaciers will melt and there will be flooding of the rivers. This will be the opportune time for dams’ and reservoir storage. These will have to be in place already. The next phase will be that of drought . Many areas of Pakistan especially those in Baluchistan are already in drought phase next to Afghanistan.Water management and use practices will have to be inculcated beforehand.
The  antagonistic attitude of Sindh’s nationalists to Indus Water Treaty has to be changed and countered in  the true context of what this treaty actually means.What is India’s stand on this issue and what is Pakistan’s stand.
As most of the 90% irrigated land in Pakistan with rivers with heads not inside it’ s territory, a major challenge was created. Both Pakistan and India agreed to work with the World Bank to solve the issue and equably and amicably resolve the water division issues. The first proposal was of a asingle integrated basin authority. This was impractical and was rejected. During the negotiations the following things were noted;
Pakistan was given 75% of waters of the system including full use of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab except for some use by Kashmiris.This was not driven by legal principles by principles of  water engineering and economics. India was permitted to tap the considerable hydropower potential of Pakistan’s three rivers before they entered Pakistan. ( the current Daimler- Bhasha dam is one such contentious project over which negotiations are being done in a very large influx of water to Pakistan irrigated crop is blocked.).
This treaty was not first but best for either side.
Indian parliamentarians objected to Pakistan’s 75% water share  as violations of principles of ‘ equitable utilization’. Ironically speakers in Lok Sabha in 1960  debated the same way and criticized the government of India for a policy of appeasement aned surrender to Pakistan and ‘other ‘ Indian interests had been let down in the same way as Sindhi nationalists accuse the Pakistan government nowadays. However, President general Ayub Khan said ‘we have been able to get the best that was possible ‘.’ Very often  the best is the enemy of the good and in this case we have accepted the good after careful and realistic appreciation of our entire overall situation’.They based the agreement as realistic and pragmatic.
The treaty was again reaffirmed by the presidents of both the countries in the recent past.
After this as part of the Treaty , the canals and Dams’ infrastructure was built. This brought a fundamental change , where storage and dams is the main feature of development and management of water resources.
The Tarbela dam has given both direct and indirect benefits ( direct benefits assessed by Pervaiz Amir exceeded 10%. It’s impact on economy is massive, about 40% of population benefits from it’s water, 30% of installed generation capacity.
Indirect benefits are increased outputs of agricultural commodities, increased seeds, fertilizers, pump sets,deisal engines, electric motors, tractors, fuels, and electricity, increased job creation, increased food processing such as sugar factories, oil mills, rice mills, bakeries etc,.
Electricity production( Hydropower) directlyimpacts and increased output of industry such as steel, chemical, textiles. Pervaiz Amir in his study for the World Bank says that the indirect impact is considerably  larger and adds to the benefit by dams.
The Sindhi peoples should take this into consideration and the federal government should devise ‘ an industry or income generating opportunity to Sindh in exchange  for consensus for a dam’ program. This income generating opportunity/ industry should be set up in rural and under –developed areas of Sindh where local crops such as sugar cane, cotton etc., should be utilized.
The Water Accord 1991 does solve a lot of problems  like entitlements, use of water by other provinces till the province uses full quota of it’s share etc and should be followed.

Some measures to reduce water stress suggested by experts are;
·       Development of more dams and storages,
·       Dater entitlements, and water rights,
·       Unbundling, and competetiveness,regulation,
·       Transparency in governance,
·       Building up water knowledge base and capacity for water management,
·       Financial and investment improvement,
·       Human resource base
·       Linking agriculture and industry.

Water management awareness and improved practices should be devolved at community level. The local bodies , councilors, nazims are a good base at grass roots level. Sustainable use of water resources should be taught and practiced at the community level.
As many measures of water logging and salinity reduction previously improved the land especially in Sindh, same measures and also the management and abatement of pollution in drinking water reservoirs and sources should be improved.
Governance in water issues should be improved and all things should be mad transparent .Public information on all issues should be available easily, corruption should be addressed immediately and very sever punishments instituted.
Effective measures to improve yield/production per acre of crop per d4rop of water should be taken.
Only urgent and consistent measures to improve the water crises taken now , will reduce conflict looming large on the horizon.

( Source: World Bank, Internet, Akhtar Ali, Dawn Newspaper.)