Dr. Hassan Abbas, a renowned hydrologist and water expert of Pakistan said that a mega vision and strong will were needed to tackle the water challenges of Pakistan. While speaking in the graduate seminar on Pakistan’s Water Challenges: Need for Integrated Water Resources Management, held at U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCAS-W) Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), Jamshoro on Friday organized by the Center in collaboration with Center for Social Change (CSC), he said that one of the biggest challenges the country was facing is water pollution instead of water scarcity. He said that water resources were not diminished as perceived by all and sundry but the natural abundance water resources were being diverted which ultimately affect the lower riparian region. Talking about the Indus Delta, he said that the balance between the sea and the delta was only possible with the natural flow of water. He said that 24 acres of land in delta were being affected and 8 acres were utterly inundated due to sea intrusion on a daily basis.
Dr. Abbas quoting the existing irrigation system and said that the irrigation canals were intentionally made to provide water for agriculture but due to flood irrigation system Pakistan, these canals cause land degradation due to water logging and salinity, while the irrigation drains have to prevent the water logging and salinity but cause pollution and nuisance in the landscape due to increase of water logging and salinity at tail ends. While discussing the economic benefits and losses due to the construction of dams on foreign loans, Dr. Abbas said that dams have temporary benefits in power generation and agriculture production, but due to dams the country was to bear the permanent losses riverine economy and environment.
Talking on the needs for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), he said that fundamental principles of contemporary IWRM is had to go with the flow which is free flow means water for all. “Water belongs to no one but to the river where it flows; and as it flows,” he added. He also shared the comparative analysis of Sava River of Europe with Indus River of the subcontinent, also showed the existing situation of both and said that how the former is more sustained, preserved and ultimately benefits the respective communities due to its natural flow and navigation. While sharing the unified vision for IWRM in Pakistan, Dr. Abbas said that there was a need to develop strict guidelines and implementation procedures to avoid and control all types of pollution into water resources. His emphasis was on an adaptation of efficient irrigation practices of the 21st century and to get rid of outdated flood irrigation and do away with colonial legacies. He also suggested developing riverine well fields for clean, fresh and sustainable water supply for both agriculture and domestic purposes. He also recommended that the businesses on the intrinsic value of water, i.e., developing water-front real estates, ecotourism, water sports, etc. and to invoke the grand economic engine of inland navigation.
Sharing the way forward, he said that Sindh being in the lower riparian region could provide leadership for effective and efficient water governance and IWRM in the country. In this connection, he stressed and illustrated on efficient irrigation in Rohri canal command, inland navigation up to Kotri, urban canal for aquifer recharge and intrinsic value projects in Karachi. He said that it was rightly said that water is heavier than oil and through the efficient water management, the water economy of Pakistan can earn more money than that of the oil economy of the Middle East.
The seminar was followed by the question and answer session, in which the participants asked various questions regarding the way forward for sustainable solutions to the water challenged faced by Pakistan. Dr. Hassan Abbas, who also heads ZiZAK acronym in Urdu Zeer Zameen Aabpashi Khaliyan (Groundwater irrigation crops) responded the questions. In his initial talk, Dr. Abbas presented the historical background of Indus Basin, water practices used in the past, construction of barrages, dams, and canals for irrigation purposes and their benefits and losses. He also highlighted the Indus Waters Treaty and shared its pros and cons.
On this occasion, Dr. Rasool Bux Mahar, Deputy Director USPCAS-W MUET welcomed the participants and introduced the speaker with the audience and also Executive Director Zulfiqar Halepoto CSC spoke on the public space for debate on water issues of Pakistan. In the seminar, MUET Dean Civil and Architecture Prof. Dr. Khan Mohammad Brohi, Prof. Mushtaq Mirani, Engr. Zarif Khero, Prof. Dr. Altaf Siyal, Dr. Kamran Ansari, former General Manager WAPDA Engr. Abdul Jabbar Memon, civil society activists, water experts, faculty and students of USPCAS-W MUET attended the seminar.