The Pakistan Water Programme, IUCN Pakistan and Oxfam Novib organised a roundtable discussion on hydro-diplomacy between India and Pakistan; Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the Islamabad Hotel today.
Experts from different ministries, defence departments (Water & Power, IRSA, PARC, WAPDA, NESPAK, PCIW and Federal Flood Commission) participated in this roundtable discussion and shared their views.
The main purpose of the discussions was to ascertain the efforts that are needed to be made to improve water cooperation amongst the neighbouring countries Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Dr. Ashfaq Mahmood, former Secretary of Water & Power Ministry, said that “it may appear to be somewhat difficult at this stage but perseverance may bring fruits in the long run. The future of the population in this area is inextricably linked with harnessing the benefits of water”. He further said that cooperation between Pakistan and India should be sought within the ambit of the Indus Water Treaty. “Initiatives should also be taken to promote understanding, relationships and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he added.
Mr. Shamsul Mulk, President, Society for Promotion of Engineering Science and Technology, said that Pakistan is already a water scarce country, while water stress is also being felt in the other countries.
The majority of the participants were of the view that Pakistan Commission for Indus Water (PCIW) needed to be strengthened whereas the capacity of the other water sector institutions also requires enhancement. Water is considered a lifeline of a country, and therefore water security needs to be brought to the centre stage. The participants also placed special emphasis on the promotion of institutional harmony, both for transboundary issues between the countries and for better utilization of water in Pakistan.
Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan, said that IUCN is a unique organisation – a democratic membership union composed of 1,200 members consisting of state members, governmental agencies and NGOs. "IUCN helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges,” he added.
Mr. Cheema said that watershed management is also an area which needs attention for increasing the surface and sub-surface water storage capacity in the country. He further said that the water storage capacity of Pakistan has dwindled with the rise in population. Commenting on the importance and role of forests in increasing the surface and sub-surface water storage capacity, Mr. Cheema, comparing the neighbouring countries, said that China has 23%, India 26% and Pakistan 5.2% of forest cover, which is a matter of great concern.
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