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July 18, 2019

Divert 6MAF to Afghanistan for regional economic uplift: expert

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July 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), former chairman Shams ul Mulk on Wednesday said Pakistan should divert 6 million acre feet (maf) water of Indus River to Afghanistan for regional economic uplift.

He was speaking as chief guest at One-day National Dialogue Series (Session II) Roundtable on “Managing Hyphenated Climate and Water Challenge: A Case Study of Pakistan" organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).

Shams ul Mulk said the country was dumping a total of 20-30maf water per year of Indus River, whereas this small ratio given to Afghanistan would help bind the two nations strategically and economically to attain sustainable development.

He said Pakistan had lost its three rivers to India under the Indus Water Treaty, while only one river and a dam were given in return. WAPDA had very little idea of decisions taken under the treaty, however, the country developed great leadership in its aftermath to protect its future, he added.

Ghulam Ishaq Khan was in WAPDA during the Indus Water Treaty era and he argued at that moment that one dam was not enough to cater to the needs of the growing population and economy of the country.

WAPDA then decided to build Tarbela Dam instead of Kalabagh Dam with the assistance of the World Bank, he mentioned. Mulk noted that WAPDA chose Tarbela Dam owing to difficult terrain and topography as it was not possible without the technical and financial assistance of the foreign agencies, whereas Kalabagh Dam’s construction was possible from the indigenous available resources.

The former chairman shared that the father of rock dams Arthur Casagrande, at the time of repair work on the dam said, “It’s far better what WAPDA did on Tarbela than NASA did on the moon.”

Mulk mentioned that it was the enormous leadership of WAPDA at that time who took the daunting task on war footings to manage the water resources of its sole river basin. However, during Ayub regime Pakistan realised the need to augment its existing water capacity and energy production due to increasing population. The country was progressing at 10 percent growth rate as compared to India on 3 percent, he added.

“President Ayub himself took the letter to the US authorities to negotiate for constructing another dam where their single sentence in response has cost Pakistan much throughout the history. The response quoted as if you [Pakistan] wish to maintain the growth rate achieved in the recent past you will have to build Kalabagh Dam. Our enemies have taken it seriously and failed us till date to build more dams,” he said.

In the prevailing century, around 45,000 dams were constructed the world over with 22,000 built in China where its famous Three Gorges Dam had the potential to generate electricity over the entire capacity of Pakistan, Mulk said.

IPRI President Ambassador Vice Admiral (retd) Khan Hasham Bin Saddique in his welcome address said the fact that only 2.5 percent of total fresh water resources were available for world population convinced the institute to hold this national dialogue on such a pertinent issue.

Water crisis, he said had certain politics attached to water resources as it effects were expanded to the concept of national security. Pakistan had less than one percent contribution in global greenhouse gas emissions, whereas it was among the three countries most affected by climate change.

Climate Change has disturbed rain patterns, prolonged droughts, increased heavy downpours and mega floods, which were impacting the country’s food security, the IPRI President said.

Pakistan had the fourth largest aquifer in the world and was blessed with glaciated rivers. Global studies reveal that unplanned urbanisation, climate change, population explosion, and poor water management would make the country go dry till 2040, Saddique added.

The roundtable discussion was moderated by former ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel who briefed the panel that the population had increased six fold in the country, which dropped the water availability from 5,000 cubic meter per person per year in 1947 to 1,000 cubic meter per person per year at present.

Water issues have gain extreme attention of the stakeholders and the global partners, therefore Pakistan adopted its water charter and water policy in April 2018, Kakakhel added. The experts including the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Program Leader Lixin Gu, Water Expert Pervaiz Amir, Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Pakistan CEO Ali Touqeer Sheikh, SDPI research fellow Dr Imran Saqib, and Member Prime Minister Inspection Commission Syed Abu Ahmad Akif mulled over multifaceted issues pertaining to water resources, transboundary water relations, water security and climate change, water scarcity, and way forward for Pakistan.

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