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Water Environment Forum

1.   Water Environment – Global, Regional & Pakistan

Water is a subject area of an intricate, interlinked nature, which has implications that range from the local to the national and international scales. In an increasingly interdependent world the Earth community has a common destiny. Population growth and the rising per capita consumption of water, food and energy are driving up the global demand for water resources. The tension between increasing demand and limited supply is increasing the competition for scarce water resources – from local up to international levels. Keeping in mind the multifaceted and complex challenge of water, it is imperative to develop an integrated approach to sustainable water management for our present and future.

1.1 Pakistan Water Challenge: Governance & Management

Pakistan is categorized as one of the most water stressed countries in the world where water demand far outstrips supply. The water storage capacity for Pakistan is only 30 days; 40-50 million Pakistanis do not have access to safe drinking water; and by current projections the per capita availability of water will decline to a mere 800 m3 by 2025. In this critical situation, improved water governance, management and conservation will not only play critical role in Pakistan’s economic development, food security, energy needs and health requirements but will also lead to environmental sustainability and safeguarding the social/cultural value of water. The challenge for a water scarce country like Pakistan is to safeguard access to a sustainable and adequate amount of water for the multiple values a society derives from its use, while preserving equity and social justice in its provision and distribution.

1.2 Regional Challenges and Opportunities: Transboundary Water
Water has no boundaries and hence any approach to water governance and management need be hinged on the principals of cooperation and building trust. Water is a resource that energizes all sectors of society and is unrestrained by international borders. However, it is the presence of these national boundaries that makes water issues political and a very complex problem.  As a natural resource, surface and ground water does not respect political boundaries, which means that states need to cooperate to manage water rather than have a single hegemonic nation acting as a basin leader and pursuing its own interests unilaterally.  Countries must share responsibilities for managing water, protecting water quality, managing environmental flows and promoting harmony among states.

1.3 Global Challenge: Water and Climate Change
Climate change is a global phenomenon, irrespective of cultures and national boundaries. Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and glacier melt impacts are resulting into excess water in some regions, resulting in floods, while water shortage in others, resulting in drought. Climate change hence complicates water resource management and planning by inserting unpredictability and increasing disaster risk. Water availability is becoming increasingly and unpredictably sensitive to climatic variations. Hydrological modeling suggests substantial impacts due to climate change: by 2050, the area under glaciers could be reduced by as much as 30% to 50%

2. Pakistan Challenges & Current Institutions

2.1 Challenges
Some of the key water challenges Pakistan faces are as follows:
Comprehensive policy framework
Attaining energy and food security
Preservation of water environment and ecology
Infrastructure development
Climate change impacts
Research and education
Water quality for heath, hygiene and sanitation
Transboundary (international and inter-provincial) water management
Urban water supply
Sustaining groundwater
Agriculture productivity

2.2 Current Institutions
Governmental – WAPDA, PMD, GCISC, others
NGO/Think Tanks – LEAD Pakistan, PWP, WaterAid, others
Universities – QAU, PIDE, LUMS, COMSAT, NUST, others
Professional Bodies – NCEJ
International Organizations/Donors working in Pakistan: WB, UN, ADB, DFID, USAID, others

3. Gaps & Response

3.1 Gaps
Public policy engagement
Research, evidence and knowledge management
Data sharing
Cooperation and dialogue among stakeholders
Integrated approach to water management
Independent Think Tanks
Public Awareness of Challenges
Capacity building

3.2 Response
The field of water is not devoid of initiatives, experiences and knowledge. Many organizations are working on water and a considerable amount of knowledge exists on Pakistan national and regional water challenges. The caveat lies in the silo approach and lack of integration between these various initiatives. There is a need for a network/platform of water sector organizations (government, NGOs, think tanks, universities, research institutions) and professional/experts to come together and create synergies for an integrated approach. Based on this rationale we propose to establish a network / platform of water and environment organizations, professionals, practitioners and experts to combine their experiences and learning to address the above stated Pakistan’s water sector challenges and gaps.

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