Nisar A. Memon
March-22-2019 -Pakistan Observer
JINNAH led the Muslims of the subcontinent to pass the historic Pakistan Resolution in 1940 which resulted in creation of a sovereign nation, seven years later. In all these years, we have come a long way but lot remains to be done. Our challenge is the sustainability of our four capitals namely: natural capital- water, biodiversity, climate; human capital – health and skills of citizens; social capital — institutions and trust; financial & physical capital — infrastructure, housing, financial, and wealth. Water is one capital, which is life giving and life sustaining.
UN recognized this and announced March 22 as World Water Day which is being observed since 1993. A quarter of century has passed, yet one billion humans in this planet still remain without safe drinking water. Every year, a different area of water is highlighted by a theme.
This year the theme is: ‘Leaving no one behind’. For us, it should be a day to make a resolve like we did in 1940 that none of the 220 million, governed by the Constitution of Pakistan, will be left behind in so far as the water in concerned. Water being fundamental to sustainability of life, yet we continue to face water challenges in ways more than one.
Today, all around the country, this day will be observed by various institutions including: governments, NGOs, INGOs, universities, businesses; mostly in comfortable city surroundings with government making policy statements and recounting their achievements.
They will point out to scarcity of water, increasing demands due to population, reduced supply due to high transmission losses, climate change causing glacier melts, reduced level in storages and ground water with not enough water charging, no consumption wastage control, weak governance with institutional weaknesses and not enough investment in old water infrastructure, reduced flows from Indus and Kabul Rivers due to upper riparian water diversion and utilization. Many speakers will repeat figures and talk about stakeholders.
However, the real stakeholders the bulk of people with non-availability of clean drinking water will not be there since these 220 million stakeholders are spread around 881,913 square kilometres of landmass from glaciers through the plains and desserts to sea.
We have had plenty of water flowing from rivers and stored in our glaciers but like all assets if not protected will reduce causing hardships to the people dependent on it. What is needed is to implement policies and rules laid down so far for water management and create awareness amongst all.
This will help achieve the constitutional obligation of human fundamental rights as well as help implement UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) we are committed to as citizen of the world by 2030. The SDG 6 for Water & Sanitation, SDG 12 for Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 15 for Life on Land as well as other SDGs too is kept in focus. Apart from this, we need to adopt short-term immediate plans and commence long-term plans.
Key Short-term Immediate Actions needed are: control of transmission water losses equivalent to 3 large dams, initiating reforms in governance for productivity, introducing water pricing for cost recovery, launching massive awareness campaign and upgrading the current infrastructure.
The Long-term Actions which must be initiated forthwith are: commence building storages, invest in all four capitals: natural, human, social and financial, encouraging science based planning using technology, identifying good practices within country for national and regional trust building, moving away from dividing water to benefit sharing of water amongst the provinces and transboundary neighbours.
We must reorganize that the link to people are their representatives; therefore the concerned government ministers and parliamentarians should have: the clear understanding of water issues, have valid reliable information and data on water agreements and policies, participate in short term and long term focus and the important environment nexus with water.
We should move away from rhetoric to real issues using transformative solutions in governance of water to fulfil national and international obligations towards our people who deserve better and sustainable life by moving towards ‘Blue Economy’ which will result in sustainable water for all, ‘Leaving no one behind.’