World Bank consultant for the much-awaited water policy for Sindh suggested ensuring water for the Indus Delta from the national share in Indus water, instead of only relying on the share from Sindh to save the delta and reduce sea intrusion.
UN Food and Agriculture Organization natural resources specialist and World Bank consultant Junko Nakai gave a detailed presentation at the “Consultation on socio-economic and gender aspects of water policy in Sindh”, recently organised by the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA).
She said that around 3.5 million acres of land has been lost since 1980 with sea intrusion up to Thatta-Sujawal Bridge, which shares boundaries with the delta.
Any structures on upper tributaries of Indus would further reduce inflows or cause fluctuation in the flow of water, thus affecting the distribution and reliability in Sindh. “Around 78 percent of the area in Sindh province is underlain by saline groundwater, which is unsuitable for irrigation and other uses,” Nakai said.
Being at the lower end of River Indus, Sindh was facing disproportional environmental challenges related to agriculture land degradation due to water logging and salinity, pollution of fresh water resources –lakes and canals-- and diminishing Indus Delta.
This was the crux of a working paper for developing the much-awaited water policy for Sindh, which has been prepared by the World Bank hired consultant on the basis of various consultations with stakeholders and cross sectoral policy documents.
The event attracted a large number of stakeholders, to whom she presented the different sections in the working paper, including human use, irrigation, sources of rainy waterways, fisheries, forest, environmental degradation, climate change, sanitation and industry.
Due to an inadequate drainage network and the flat topography of the basin, nearly one-fifth of the canal command area was affected by water logging and salinity. In addition, other major environmental challenges include degradation of Manchar lake, pollution of fresh water canals due to disposal of urban and industrial waste, damaged ecology of Indus delta, degradation of coastal lakes due to left bank outfall drainage (LBOD).
The author of the working paper proposed to have assertive communication strategy based on evidence to counter the national argument against the misuse of water in Sindh and below downstream Kotri releases. As water requirements grow and competitions among sectors and provinces increase, the argument against downstream Kotri would continue, hence a proactive and research-based response should be crucial to protect whatever was left in Indus Delta eco-region.
She pointed out that the competition among different users might lead to severe conflicts, some of which were already being witnessed, as Sindh was also facing issues with Punjab and Balochistan. “The rising conflicts will damage the social cohesion, economic development and frustrate poverty reduction efforts.”
Being at the lower end of River Indus, Sindh was facing disproportional environmental challenges related to agriculture land degradation due to water logging and salinity, pollution of fresh water resources –lakes and canals- and diminishing Indus Delta
For inter-provincial harmony, it was essential to have dedicated and skilled human resources to understand and engage in these discussions to amicably resolve and protect the interest of the province.
“Water policy will be a key document to define social purpose of water resources, set long-term visions and clear direction of water management based on equity, sustainability and efficiency in the province. It may help in taking future decision related to development, provision, use, distribution, disposal and sustainability of water resources.”
Equity in water distribution was the key to redefine social purpose of this important natural resource to address rural poverty, malnourishment and distress, Junko Nakai said.
According to Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA) spokesman Hizbullah Mangrio, the process of consultation for the policy designing continues to have more information through users of spate irrigation, industry and inland water bodies.
Sindh government has assigned the task of policy designing to Planning and development and irrigation departments and SIDA, which was playing a lead role because of its working relationship with communities, mainly farmer organisations.
The working paper shows that governance was the most challenging area. In the past two decades, there have been fundamental flaws in the enforcement of water laws and regulations on water distribution, cropping pattern, cropping intensity.
In addition, lower level of investment in operation and maintenance and lack of skilled and capacitated human resources were the major issues. Institutional reforms introduced a quarter century ago, still were in limbo. The hybrid institutional arrangement created inter-departmental tension, while unnecessary political involvement has also affected the overall departmental efficiency, the draft shows.
High arsenic in ground water along with pesticide and fertiliser residual in shallow ground water, pollution of surface water were also major challenges for drinking water source.
At the end, the author mentioned that water policy in vacuum cannot produce desired results hence it has to be aligned and linked with national and provincial other sectoral policies and plans, including “national water policy, agriculture policy, forestry and fishing policy, coastal zone management policy, wetland strategy, provincial flood management plan, provincial drought mitigation management plan, provincial disaster risk reduction framework, provincial drinking water and sanitation strategies, provincial climate change policy and women rights policy”.
The writer is a staff member