The setting up of a high level permanent National Water Council (NWC), can be said to be an important decision


Nov 15 - 28, 2004

In view of the serious problems arising out of water shortage in the country, the government has set up National Water Council to resolve differences amongst the provinces and ensure equitable distribution of available water for irrigation purposes.

The announcement was made by the Federal Minister for Water and Power at a high level meeting in Islamabad last week. The Prime Minister is likely to head the council, which is expected to coordinate and resolve the existing conflicts and make decision on the water sector. The proposed council will include chief ministers of all the four provinces, seven federal ministers and experts from the provinces and the Ministry of Water and Power Development Authority. The Minister said water is precious and increasingly scare national resource and is the lifeline of survival, health and sustaining national economic development. "The policy has been targeted by 2025 to meet the water resources for next 20 years".

The Minister was of the view that a sustainable and action-oriented National Water Policy is the need of the hour to tackle the water shortage in future and to manage water resources in the country. He said the first ever-national water policy would be implemented in letter and spirit. "All the provincial governments have also okayed the draft of the policy," he added. He said Pakistan is an agri-based economy, which is totally dependent on water resources. "There is need to launch a "Blue Revolution", which over the first quarter of the 21st century will provide improved quality, in the most important input namely water, in order to meet future needs of all the sectors.

In view of the serious problems arising out of water shortage in the country, the setting up of a high level permanent National Water Council (NWC), can be said to be an important decision in the right direction. The policy envisages complete reorganization of water sector institutions through mergers and has approved the formation of NWC to take crucial decisions. The council, to be formally approved by the cabinet, will be headed by the Prime Minister and would comprise chief ministers of the four provinces, federal minister of water and power, food and agriculture, finance, environment, law and justice, some federal secretaries, provincial irrigation and agriculture ministers, experts and other stakeholders. In order to effectively implement the decisions of the high level council, water regularity commissions will be established at the provincial levels. A National Water Commission will be formed through the merger of chief engineering adviser organization, planning institutions and the federal flood organization. This independent National Water Commission would assist, the National Water Council.

The national water policy aims at economic utilization of the water of the water resources of the country. It envisages procurement of additional shortage for the crops round the year, building storages to overcome droughts, and to develop comprehensive water and hydro resources, as also to further develop hydro power to reverse the trend of rising power tariff. The water policy calls for encouraging and supporting the combination of appropriate provisions of various water related acts into one comprehensive act. The acts regarding water administration and distribution matters made from 1873 to 1997 have given rise to a number of contradictions and problems. The national water council, it is hoped, can look after legislation and various other difficulties in this regard.

Water shortage is becoming a problem all over the world but in our country due to non-construction of water reservoirs, less availability of space in lakes due to silting and enhancement in water needs special attention because of increase in population and drought during the past several years, the water crisis has become more acute. There is a continuing tension between the provinces on this issue.

The present situation is that the water available for the Rabi crop in all the four provinces is less than their requirement. If there are no rains during winter and in the coming years, and if there is inadequate snowfall, it is likely to result in further lessening of the water resources. Much is being said about the construction of Kalabagh and Basha dams but no clear decision has yet been taken. Even if the construction starts now, the results can be expected in another ten years. On top of it, there are number of deficiencies in water distribution including water theft in connivance with the concerned officials. In view of all these factors, a comprehensive water policy and its proper implementation is the need of the hour. At the rate of 1.8 percent growth, the population will increase to 168 million by the year 2010. This requires a serious review of the whole system of water availability, management and distribution. It is hoped that after the establishment of the new, empowered and high level council, efforts would be made for a consensus on construction of new water reservoirs and work started to the satisfaction of all provinces on these projects at the earliest. The nation has to get rid of this serious water problem, which, if unsolved, is loaded with dangerous consequences.