QUTEETA: The expert consultation on improving water governance in Balochistan organized by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Taraqee Foundation came to a close on December 20, 2016, after extensive deliberations that centered on the need for urgency in addressing the already deteriorating water crisis in the province.
Representative from the Government of Balochistan, the Ministry of Climate Change, as well as experts from the water sector and the US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Water, at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology,donors, academia andthe media participated in the event.
Key areas covered during the sessions included impacts of groundwater mining in Balochistan and institutional measures needed to control such mining; water conservation opportunities and potential and also the impacts of climate change on groundwater depletion.
Mr. Sher Yar Taj, from the Planning and Development Department, Government of Balochistan, gave a presentation on the water profile of Balochistan, and said that more than 70% of water in Quetta was contaminated, it was 100% for Ziarat and Lora Lai, and while people were drinking such water in their daily routine, it was just not fit for consumption. He urged upon integrated water resource management. He also referred to a Balochistan Master Water Plan for 2015-2025 as well as the draft Balochistan IWRM Act, both of which needed governments approval. He referred to above documents, which mentions plans for the construction of 50 dams project (2016-24), as well as 100 dams project (2009-2019); waste water treatment plants; installation of chlorinators at main drinking water sources.
The dire need to improve water governance with a focus on water rights and equity was highlighted by Mr. Naseebullah Khan, former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Balochistan. He added thatwater resources management was a critical area that required attention and efforts were needed to restore watersheds. Thematic technical sessions and panel discussions viewed floodwater as the only potential resource which could be exploited by constructing check dams to create storage reservoirs. Experts highlighted that the construction of delay action dams and check dams on small streams and gorges would help both in increasing the groundwater recharge and reduce the occurrence and the intensity of the flash floods.”It is important that such activities need to be complemented with appropriate watershed management efforts,” said Mr. Khan.
Earlier in his remarks, Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change,observed that climate change and associated water issues had serious implications for the country,and that decreasing surface and ground water would impact every aspect of life in the coming decades as weather patterns became more unpredictable and both floods and droughts became more common and with greater impacts. “In the absence of a clear understanding of vulnerability in the water can be disastrous for the future of not just Quetta and Balochistan but also of Pakistan in the fields of agriculture, energy, forestry, and disaster planning,” he added.
In hisremarks, Mr. Amjad Rashid, Chairperson, IUCN Pakistan Members Committee stated that environmentalists had been warning us about the severe scarcity of water, droughts and floods in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan, and alerted to the possibility of mass-migration in years to come if the government failed to address the exacerbating water crisis. Experts believe that water table in Quetta is being depleted rapidly.
In his opening remarks, IUCN Country Representative Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan, said that most of the rural population was dependent on natural resources, mainly water, rangeland, forests and minerals. Therefore, environmental sustainability and management of natural resources such as water is an area we must seriously look into – and “it is not a matter of choice, but of survival now.” Mr. Cheema added that “we all know water is a precious commodity and prolonged droughts over the last few decades have been a major reason for this massive shortage of water in the Balochistan province. This is what we had forecasted long ago, and tried to provide help in recent years.We are willing to help even now. But the situation is only getting worse by the day – so its time we all synergized our efforts in a realistic manner.