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October 21, 2018

International symposium on water Agri income be taxed

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October 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The concluding session of two-day international symposium on water Saturday passed a declaration recommending that across-the-board agricultural tax should be imposed throughout the country and recovered by appropriate authorities set up through an effective legal framework.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar addressed the concluding session of symposium titled “Creating a Water Secure Pakistan” on the Supreme Court premises here.

National and international experts, academia, jurists, representatives of relevant federal and provincial ministries/ departments, federal ministers, present and past members of Parliament and provincial assemblies, etc. attended the symposium.

“We will have to strain every nerve to ensure that our young generation doesn’t have to face water shortage,” said the chief justice.

He said the judiciary was determined to protect fundamental rights of the people enshrined in Article 184(3) of the constitution.

He said water was both life and right, and if there was no water then there would be no life.

“My children are deprived of this right; I cannot tolerate this”, he said, adding, “For the past 40 years the need for building more water reservoirs to meet the future needs has been criminally neglected,” the chief justice said.

“The nation wants to know as to who’re responsible for this injustice meted out to the people of this country. Now’s the time to seriously look into this important issue”, he said.

“Nobody gifted us Pakistan but it came into being due to the untiring efforts of Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan,” he said.

“Tell me who will provide us with water? Is there anyone who can make it?” he asked emphasising the importance of water for humans.

In a lighter vein, he said, “Let’s give Malik Riaz thousands of acres of land to make water available to us.”

The chief justice said he did not do injustice to anybody and never stepped beyond his jurisdiction while protecting the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan.

“I request the whole nation from the core of my heart to please do something for the betterment of this country and to put it on the path of progress”, the CJP said.

He said the money donated for construction of dams was an Amanat (trust) with the judiciary and nobody would be allowed to take kickbacks in the dam fund.

The chief justice expressed grave concern over non-appearance of government functionaries and minister for water and power in the concluding ceremony.

“Although relevant polices exist, there is a dire need for its implementation,” he said.

Declaration: The declaration passed at the conclusion of symposium emphasised the need to immediately set up a powerful task force on water and recommended that agricultural income tax be levied and recovered across the board throughout Pakistan through appropriate authorities set up through an effective legal framework.

The symposium was aimed at sensitizing the nation to water scarcity, finding way forward and taking inputs from international and local water sector experts for water management.

Experts from the US, Australia and South Africa etc. discussed various issues of river basins in their countries which were similar to the Indus River Basin and also shared their experiences in overcoming water scarcity and other water management issues in their countries.

The international water experts also deliberated on eradication of sedimentation in the dams and the need for construction of large and small dams and reservoirs. They researchers also presented their research papers on five thematic sessions.

The recommendations of thematic sessions were presented before the House in the concluding session and the same were approved by the house as the Islamabad Declaration 2018.

The 20-point Islamabad Declaration acknowledged the importance of water as a sine qua non for realization of fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 9 of the Constitution Pakistan and the dire need for water security in Pakistan.

It reaffirmed the responsibility of all the pillars of state to promote and protect human rights, particularly those of the judiciary as the custodian of Constitution, and to ensure protection of fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The gathering noted that the potential of Pakistan’s part of the Indus Basin had to be realized through priority actions that needed to be taken on an immediate basis.

Maintaining the integrity of Indus Basin is a serious and important responsibility of the federation as well as the provinces, including all other administrative units and above all, the people of Pakistan.

“It is imperative for Pakistan to invest in supply augmentation (dams and reservoirs) and ensure better utilization of its groundwater, adopting appropriate water technologies (water recycling, desalinization, and water harvesting) and manage consumption and use of water (controlling water demand and pricing) and do all of this under the principles of mutual trust and benefit sharing”, says the declaration

It stressed that the International Water Law should be taken advantage of by consistently putting forward Pakistan’s perspective at various international forums and Pakistan’s strategy towards implementation of the Indus Water Treaty should be reconsidered and revisited to bolster its case.

It asked the government to introduce water accounting based on modernised water data collection methods to assess, amongst other things, the water availability per capita, in order to build trust amongst the Provinces regarding water apportionment, particularly considering the requirements of the Indus Delta and lower riparian areas in Pakistan, Numerous small and large dams and reservoirs must be constructed on a priority basis.

Fast-track feasibilities and action is required on the part of the executive”, the declaration suggested.

It said the Indus Basin irrigation network had to be extended which would bring several million acres of land under irrigation, and design water allocation right down to the district level.

The symposium emphasised introducing measures for flood risk reduction through flood plains and hill-torrent management, groundwater recharge, wetlands restoration and community-based natural resource management.

Other measures to control wastage, encourage productivity and ensure sustainability of scarce resources need to be considered.

“An appropriate legal framework should be available to strengthen institutional arrangements for proper environmental hazard tackling”, says the declaration.

It recommended strengthening the institutional capacity of Wapda being the main water stakeholder should be strengthened for the urgent development of dams and reservoirs on the model of the Indus Basin Replacement Works.

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