IUCN Pakistan and Oxfam Novib recently organised a roundtable discussion on hydro-diplomacy to improve water cooperation between India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Experts from different ministries, defence departments (such as Water & Power, IRSA, PARC, WAPDA, NESPAK, PCIW and Federal Flood Commission) participated in the roundtable discussion and shared their views on the topic of water cooperation.
The main purpose was to ascertain the efforts that are needed 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 pointed that cooperation between Pakistan and India should be sought within the sphere 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.
Most participants agreed that the 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, raised the issue of good watershed management to increase the surface and sub-surface water storage capacity in the country. He pointed out that the water storage capacity of Pakistan has dwindled over the past decades. Commenting on the role of forests in increasing the surface and sub-surface water storage capacity, Mr. Cheema compared neighbouring countries stating that China has 23%, India 26% and Pakistan only 5.2% of forest cover, which is a matter of great concern.
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