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August 26, 2018

Careful water use stressed to deal with climate change


August 26, 2018

LAHORE: Waqar Ahmad is head of Corporate Affairs at Nestlé Pakistan. He has worked with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), The Network for Consumer Protection, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ahmed called for holistic approach for judiciously utilising water resources in an interview.

Q: What are your advices for the new government to address the water scarcity?

A: The importance of developing water storage cannot be ignored. However, we should also give priority to conserving water. As Supreme Court of Pakistan gave verdict in favour of building water storages in the country, there is now more emphasis on significance of conserving water and its judicious use. Now, all the stakeholders, including political parties, will be bound to take steps in this direction. The apex court’s decision will hopefully act as snowball effect as far as advancements on water saving measures is concerned.

There have been considerable developments lately on water issues. We have finally seen first ever water policy of the country. A separate Ministry for Water Resources was also set up. The new government in its policy guidelines also underlines need of water sector developments with a major emphasis on dealing with the challenges of climate change. We need to take steps on macro level as well as micro levels. Moreover, we need both a top-down and bottom-up approaches in order to accelerate pace of work on water conservation.

Q: What are the main reasons behind water shortage?

A: Water scarcity currently affects four out of every 10 people in the world. Similarly, the situation is of much importance in Pakistan as per capita water availability, according to IMF has significantly declined to 1,017 cubic metres in 2017 from 1,500 cubic metres in 2009. We must remember that 1,000 cubic meters are the scarcity threshold. Hence this situation is grave. The situation is worsening owing to population growth, urbanisation, pollution of water resources and the impact of climate change.

Globally, around 70 percent of water is used in agriculture. In Pakistan, that percentage stands at 90 percent, with 50 percent wastage due to poor irrigation methods. Our centuries old irrigation system causes wastages due to evaporation, seepage, spillage and side leakage resulting from irregular profile and zigzag alignment of banks. In order to ensure significant water saving, we need to help farmers improve their water management and reduce their water use through high-efficiency irrigation techniques as well as new technologies.

Q: Water uses in dairy sector are considerably high, leaving huge climate footprints. How can such intakes be reduced?

A: Saving water in dairy sector once again requires a multi-lateral approach. Agriculture is responsible for approximately 41 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country, mostly through livestock production, according to a World Bank report. Technologies and practices that improve efficiency in livestock systems while simultaneously reducing emissions may include improved animal feed and feeding techniques to reduce methane and nitrous oxide, improved breeding, adapted manure storage and management practices, and improved pastures and management of grazing lands to enhance productivity and create carbon sinks. This will further have a positive impact on water management.

We have a fairly large population of cows and buffaloes in the country. The manure that they produce results in increase in carbon emissions. If we have a cattle population that is efficient, produces more milk, and is not that high in numbers, we can reduce our carbon emissions.

Water sense and drip irrigation are helping us save water. With the help of these high efficiency irrigation methods, we have been able to cut down on the number of irrigations.

Q: Which steps Nestle Pakistan is taking to reduce water uses in its industrial processes?

A: Nestlé Pakistan aims to get all its four sites certified by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standard by the end of 2019. AWS is an international standard that provides a framework for companies to take steps inside and outside their fence to protect shared water resources by involving other stakeholders like the government, other industries and communities. We have already acquired the AWS certificate for our Sheikhupura and Islamabad factories in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Our water saving programs enabled us to reduce water consumption per ton of product by four percent in 2017 as compared to 2016. Between 2013 and 2017, we reduced our water consumption per ton of product by 11 percent. We have also developed affordable soil moisture sensors to save water and increase productivity. We have successfully installed drip on 68 acres in 2017 with estimated water saving of 140 million litres.

In 2018, we are expected to save 120 million liters of water by installing drip on 50 acres. By end 2019, we aim to install drip on 187 acres with expected water saving of 400 million liters.

We have increased the acreage of perennial fodder from 1,700 acres in 2016 to 2,100 acres in 2017. It is estimated to save more than 2 million cubic meters water in its three year’s life time.

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