The Australian Government and the Asia Foundation Pakistan, in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change and IUCN Pakistan, organized a discussion on the political economy of agriculture water use in Pakistan to understand the power dynamics and to pave the way for effective water management for agriculture in the Indus Basin.
A large number of policy makers, civil society representatives and farmers participated in this event. Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), government officials from the Ministry of Water and Power, Ministry of Climate Change, Planning Commission of Pakistan, provincial governments’ irrigation and agricultural departments, researchers and academicians also participated in the discussion. The focus of the discussion was the ecological, political and economic factors that govern the use of water in the region.
In view of the fast depleting water resources in the country Mr. Khizar Hayat Khan, Secretary for the Ministry of Climate Change, emphasized on the seriousness of the Government of Pakistan on the water issue. “With the support of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Government is addressing the challenge of receding glaciers and the Ministry of Climate Change endorses such collaborations which can further the agenda of the GCF,” he explained.
The Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Margaret Adamson, stated that cooperation in water management is an important dimension of the Australia-Pakistan bilateral relationship. She said that “Australia has been supporting Pakistan’s water resource and agricultural development objectives since the 1980s. The Australian Government’s work on water management provides opportunities for facilitating knowledge exchange between our countries in this vitally important sector”.
The event was part of the Australian Government’s Water Program in Pakistan in partnership with the Government of Pakistan. It encourages technical experts and civil society to campaign for effective water resource management.
Summing up the debate and giving a way forward, Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan stated that Australia is extremely rich in the field of Integrated Water Resource Management from which Pakistan can greatly benefit through mutual cooperation. He also stressed on collaborations of relevant institutions for devising future strategies on water and setting the way forward. He said that early approval of the national and provincial policies is vital to moving forward. He further said that the vegetative cover has been reduced owing to the effects of climate change and neglect, whereas the neighboring countries have made efforts and enhanced their vegetative cover which has helped them in enhancing their ground water.
He said that collaboration between Australian Water Programme and IUCN Pakistan’s Water Programme is the need of the hour. He emphasized the role of political parties and recommended that all parties hold a dialogue pre and post elections where they can come up with their manifestos on Integrated Water Resource Management.
He spoke about the judicious use of water that it is vital for the agriculture sector. He said that climate change induced risks further triggers natural events such as floods, sea intrusion has eroded thousands hectares of land in the coastal areas in the country.
He further laid stress on understanding the effect on ecosystems degradation that arise out of the poor water management resulting from political forces prevalent that strongly influence the water use in the agriculture sector.
Dr Abdul Majeed, Water, Energy and Climate Change Expert IUCN Pakistan presented the key findings of the study grouped under five major themes that have a major role in the power dynamics in the water for agriculture sector:
(1) Transboundary and riparian issues;
(2) Access to information and transparency;
(3) Restructuring of water tariffs;
(4) Rethinking on farmers’ organizations;
(5) Increasing institutional empowerment and coordination;
(6) Women and water; and
(6) Influence of the Political clout.
He laid stress on bringing about a paradigm shift for reforms in the water sector based on problem driven political economy analyses, a strong understanding of institutional norms and arrangements, identifying formal and informal practices, norms, and rent distribution, and the ability of key stakeholders to influence decisions and perceived risks to negotiations in the technical, structural, and historical context.