Speakers at the Third International Water Conference on Tuesday said that Pakistan must reserve its water reservoirs in order to avoid a severe shortage of water in future. Pakistan is at a critical crossroads in terms of its water resources, they warned, and methods through which its manages its fast decreasing per capita water availability and takes effective measures to correct its erratic river flows will determine how it deals with its changing water regime.
The three-day conference opened with a plenary session on “The Future of Water in a Politically Challenged New World Order,” with the keynote address delivered by one of the world’s leading authorities on water, Professor David Grey, a visiting professor at Oxford University.
In his speech, Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair said that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would be inaugurating another Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal after his return from Saudi Arabia, where he is now on a visit. The governor said the federal government has now created a separate Water Ministry, an important department which had previously been clubbed with the Ministry of Energy.
But the governor said terrorism is a far bigger issue in Pakistan than the country’s water crisis. In his comments the governor touched on all important issues facing the country but the issue at hand. He raised eyebrows when he appeared to play down the threat to Pakistan’s water security.
Zubair said he appreciated the efforts of citizens-based organizations such as Hisaar Foundation, which sponsored the event, to take steps to overcome some of the challenges. In his speech, the CEO of Engro Corporation Ghias Khan, said “not only citizens, but industries are facing regulatory, physical and reputational risks due to lack of a conservation policy and a water regulatory framework.”
Simi Kamal, founder of Hisaar Foundation said she spoke to the Panjwani Hisaar Water Institute at NED University of Engineering and Technology. The water institute will be the first of its kind in Pakistan and the region. Rudolph Cleveringa, executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership, Hungarian ambassador Istvan Szabo, Engro Corporation’s CEO Ghias Khan, Simi Kamal and Zohair Ashir were leading presenters at the opening session.
The opening plenary was followed by a series of sessions exploring issues such as water economy and water stewardship. Vice chancellors of several Pakistani universities, including Dr Sarosh Lodi of NEDUET, also discussed methods to promote water-related studies within their respective universities.
At another session notable speakers such as Dr Marianne Kjellen, the UNDP’s senior water advisor, and Shamsuddin Sheikh, CEO of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, explored ways in which water economy can be leveraged for poverty alleviation. Another session had Dr Zaigham Habib, Dr Lubna Ghazal, Ms Daanika Kamal and ZulfIqar Halepoto exploring the visible impacts of climate change.