PM Abbasi calls for measures to meet water crisis

Chairs meeting on National Water Policy, urges for scientific management of scarce water resources

Islamabad


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Thursday has called for urgent and effective measures to conserve water and to prevent its wastage to tackle a looming water crisis.

“There is an urgent need to take effective measures at provincial as well as federal level for not only ensuring optimum utilisation, but also for conservation and scientific management of water resources, to cater to future needs of growing population of the country,” PM Abbasi stressed.

Chairing a meeting at Prime Minister’s (PM) Office in Islamabad on draft National Water Policy, the PM called for a “robust framework to conserve freshwater which is a finite resource and was progressively becoming scarce.”

He directed the officials to share the draft policy with provinces for their consideration and early finalisation.

Abbasi appreciated the efforts of Planning Commission on formulating the much-needed policy framework for effective conservation, utilisation and management of existing water resources.

Federal Minister for Interior and Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz, Minister for Power Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, federal secretaries and senior officials attended the meeting.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz briefed the officials on the proposed National Water Policy drafted to ensure a policy framework for effective management and conservation of existing water resources. The water policy would also help improve availability, reliability, and quality of fresh water to meet critical municipal, agricultural, energy and food security needs, besides addressing the environmental concerns.

The draft policy addresses critical issues of reduction in wastage of water, enhancement of water storage capacity from 14 million acre feet (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 revamping of irrigation infrastructure and setting up of realistic and achievable targets.

The proposed National Water Policy is a timely measure as Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and the Met department have warned that the country could face severe drought by 2025.

Pakistan’s massive water crisis, scarcely making the headlines, is feared to have profound implications on the country’s stability and security as large proportion of the population does not have access to clean water.

No access to clean water and |infrequent government water supply has forced even city-dwellers to dig up their own wells and rely on bottled water for drinking” says Imran Khalid, a researcher at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

Pakistan’s water is not only becoming scarce but also contaminated. The risk is potentially higher given that about 60-70 per cent of Pakistan’s population relies on groundwater which in many areas is contaminated.

A recent study published in the US journal Science Advance highlighted that some 60 million people are at risk of arsenic poisoning from contaminated groundwater in Pakistan.

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