DEVELOPING WATER RESOURCES
Government had already started a massive programme of developing water resources
From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Dec 23 - 29, 2002
Inaugurating the second South Asia Water Forum in Islamabad last Saturday President Gen. Musharraf emphasised the need to develop water resources to ensure adequate water supply for irrigation purposes as it was vital to alleviate poverty and unemployment as well as to boost agro-based economy. Fully conscious of the fact, his government had already started a massive programme of developing water resources aimed to add over 5 million acre feet to water in our existing capacity within the next 4/5 years, the president added.
The 3 day international conference (Dec. 14 to 16) was organised by the organisation Global Water Partnership and Ministry of Water and Power. The moot was attended by over 400 delegates from Pakistan and abroad representing 40 foreign countries.
President Musharraf declared. "I am fully convinced that in addressing poverty, unemployment and simultaneously to give boost to our agro-based economy, we have to take water to the people where they need it most".
The country in the last four years has experienced one of the worst droughts which destroyed the irrigation land and forced people to migrate in search of food and shelter. Therefore, the President said, the Government over the past one and a half year launched a massive programme of developing reservoirs to increase the capacity of water. He said "Chutiari Dam" in Sindh had been completed and work on Gomal Dam and Mirani Dam in Balochistan and NWFP and the level-raising project of Mangla Dam was underway. In all upto 5.2 million acre feet of water would be added to the country's capacity. "Mangla Dam has a capacity of roughly 5 million acre feet of water so in all we are going to add one major dam capacity of roughly 5 million acre feet of water. We are going to add one major dam capacity of water in 4-5 years," he added.
At the same time, the President said, it was equally essential to take that water to the people whose millions of acre of land remained barren due to want of water. The government, therefore, undertook the construction of canal system and water channel simultaneously. He said Kachi Canal, being constructed, in Balochistan was 500 km long and would irrigate 283,400 hectare of land and would generate Rs.30 billion from sowing of cotton alone. "The one canal done would provide permanent settlement of thousands of families of nomadic tribes who have been migrating in search of water, food and fodder since centuries." So through the water development programme we killed two birds with one stone poverty alleviation and reviving economy," he said, adding that the third aspect of the programme was power generation. Currently, he said, 70 per cent of total power generation in Pakistan was through oil which has added a burden of over one billion dollars to our imports. Pakistan can generate power through water and coal, which are in abundance and are cheaper mode of production. "Our aim is to change the ration of power generation 70:30 in favour of hydroelectricity", he said while adding, it would again deal with the objective of poverty alleviation.
President Musharraf said the construction of dams and water reservoirs could also be the best way of controlling floods, "if we construct proper dams on rivers there can be no floods in Pakistan". Moreover, the president said it was also essential to ensure that water from river flow into sea to prevent any backflow. In this respect, he gave the example of Kotri Barrage where backflow of seawater destroyed the irrigation land. The president expressed the hope that the future government would also lay due emphasis on the need of increasing capacity of water in the country.
The President said he was pleased to note that "Ground Water Management" has been selected as main theme of technical discussion for the Second Forum. During the last three years of persistent drought the ground water, he stated, has played a vital role in guaranteeing country's food security and self-sufficiency in addition to meeting the demands of other sectors as well.
About the issue of water in the region, the President said that South Asia today stood as one the poorest regions in the world, in spite of its enormous potential. The inadequate management of our water resources is one of the prime causes of our poverty," he said while adding. "The prospects for development seem to be limitless, but we are continuously losing our per capita water availability". The President said it is a geographical fact that water unites many countries of the world in general and South Asia in Particular. In this respect, he referred to Pakistan and China linked by rivers and mountains.
However, he added, it has also been a source of conflict between countries and regions. It had been a cause of difference of opinion between Pakistan and India over river water, which was resolved through Indus Water Treaty. "But it still remains a contentious issue when talking of dams, building of water reservoirs on rivers, he added.
The President said, issue of water distribution and water management was extremely complex, even within the country. He said water distribution and allocation among the provinces remain a contentious issue. Moreover, within the province the distribution of water among the influential and the powerless was also a contentious problem. The government in the past three years had been involved in addressing these issues.
The president said he was impressed by the water vision of GWP and "Framework For Action" which it had conceived and developed together. He hoped that with a cooperative strategy, water can play a vital role as a catalyst for harmony among countries of South Asia. He praised other objectives of the Forum including stabilisation of population in South Asia, food security, affordable water supply and sanitation, protection of water from contamination etc.