ISLAMABAD – A Senate panel was informed on Wednesday that to review water situation in the country, a meeting of the National Water Council had been convened on October 25.
The meeting of the will be held next week which will be presided over by the Prime Minister and will be attended by all chief ministers, said Secretary Water Resources Shumail Khwaja while briefing the Senate Special Committee on Water Scarcity here.
Convened by Senator Moula Bux Chandio, the meeting was attended by Senator Sassui Palijo, Senator Brig (R) John Kenneth Williams, Senator Akram, Senator Khushbakht Shujaat, Senator Sherry Rehman and senior officers of the Ministry of Water Resources and Indus Rivers Systems Authority (IRSA).
The Committee deliberated over Senator Azam Khan Swati’s notice of motion under rule 218 regarding issue of water shortage in the country. It was recommended that additional storage for inter-seasonal and inter-year transfer of water for optimum utilisation must be created. The losses in canals could be eliminated by lining in areas of high water loss and saline zones. It was asserted that advance systems of irrigation must be used. Water conservation was stressed as well.
The Secretary Water Resources said that 137 million acre feet of water flowed in the country’s rivers annually, out of which 95 percent was provided to agriculture sector while 3 percent was used for drinking purposes. He said that Karachi needed 1,200 cusecs of water.
Discussing the issue of desalination plants in the country, Senator Sherry Rehman said that desalination was expensive but in the wake of extreme water shortage, this option must be explored. If appropriate measure are not taken, she asserted, Pakistan would face water famine by 2025.
Israel and the UAE are prime examples of water starved areas where desalination has been a success. She condemned lack of funding in the PSDP regarding this project and said that India had begun a national desalination mission that was being funded adequately so that it does not depend solely on its river resources. She further asserted that Sindh and Balochistan must get their full share of water from Indus River. However, other measures must be taken to protect these provinces from sea intrusion and desertification.
Senator Sassui Palijo gave recommendations to be included in National Water Council meeting. She demanded that the status of flood canals must be determined and that in the wake of acute water shortage, Mangla Dam must not be filled. She said that it must be clarified whether Tarbela and Mangla dams had been constructed for the benefit of just one province.
The Committee directed the Ministry of Water Resources to provide copies of National Water Policy and the National Water Charter of the country. It further directed that a comprehensive report on Dravat Dam in Sindh and Kachi Canal in Balochistan be submitted to the Committee in the next meeting.
The Committee stressed the need to review the issue of opening of the CJ Canal and solutions for provision of water to lower riparian areas of the country. The Committee members decided to visit Karachi and other coastal areas such as Gwadar in Balochistan to investigate provision of drinking water to urban areas in Pakistan.