Islamabad-Australia on Tuesday launched water programme to boost agriculture and water management in Pakistan.
The project which will cost 15 million Australian dollars was launched here by Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan Margaret Adamson and Federal Minister for Defence Production and Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanveer Hussain. The programme aims to continue longstanding bilateral collaboration on building capacity to improve water management and boost agricultural productivity in Pakistan.
The water programme includes the Australian government’s 12-year Indus Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) which was mapping the current and future needs of the Indus Basin.
Addressing on the occasion, Australian High Commissioner Adamson said that Australia has supported agricultural research in Pakistan since 1980s. “Our continued support through Australian expertise will help Pakistan build an innovation-based agriculture sector through targeted public investment not only to boost agriculture profitability but most importantly to ensure food security,” she said.
The Australian Council for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) together with the Pakistan Council Of Research In Water Resources (PCRWR), Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Water and Power, are working to support inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction in Pakistan, with a particular focus on the promotion of equal opportunity for women and girls.
The programme would also encourage advocacy by the Pakistan government, technical experts and civil society to advocate for effective water resource management and support the government’s efforts towards the development of the National Water Commission and National Water Policy. “Cooperation in water management is a significant and increasing dimension of our bilateral relationship,” she remarked. The programme provides further opportunities for facilitating knowledge exchange between our countries in this vitally important sector, Ms Adamson maintained.
Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) were working with the Ministry of Water and Power to build the capacity of Pakistan’s water managers in efficient water management.
The Water Programme also includes three farm-level projects implemented by ACIAR to improve groundwater management in agriculture.
She said that effective management of Pakistan’s water resources has a direct impact on the national economy.
Adamson said that Pakistan is a country built around the Indus and people derive economic livelihood from its water resources through agricultural productivity, livestock management and industry. About 90 per cent of the freshwater flowing in the Indus is used for agriculture which generates 20 per cent of Pakistan’s overall economic output. At the same time agriculture employs approximately 45 per cent of Pakistan’s population.
She said that the plentiful - but finite - resource of the Indus is also a source for the well-being of Pakistan’s people; providing environmental health services, drinking water and the often-ignored cultural services for local communities.
The ACIAR is partnering with key Government of Pakistan counterparts and the world class expertise of Australian universities - the University of Queensland, University of South Queensland, University of Canberra and Charles Sturt University - to implement three vital on-farm irrigation management projects. These projects will develop a shared understanding of sustainable groundwater use for agriculture in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh.
“We are also working at the policy level through our Indus Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio. In partnership with the Ministry of Water and Power and its line departments, provincial irrigation departments, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the Asia Foundation we are improving policies and decision-making in relation to the sustainable use and management of the Indus Basin,” said Ms Adamson .
The launch of the Australian Water Programme in Pakistan provides further opportunities for exchanging knowledge between both the countries and drawing on Australia’s world class expertise in the field of water management.
“We believe that such exposure is key in building confidence of researchers, farmers, farming communities and relevant government and non-government agencies to improve groundwater planning and management in ways which enhance agricultural sustainability in Pakistan,” she added.
The programme encourages Pakistan’s vibrant private sector to explore avenues for collaboration with Australian companies with expertise in the water sector, Adamson said. There are more than1000 Australian companies offering world-class technologies to improve water supply in coastal cities, water recycling in industrial hubs, municipal water management and water management systems in agriculture, she added.
She noted that Australia’s long journey towards effective water management of Murray-Darling Basin bears many of the same characteristics of Pakistan’s challenges. As an arid country that shares a common freshwater resource, Australia learnt that policy development and scientific knowledge go hand-in-hand, Adamson said.
Australia remains committed to work with partners at the policy level to overcome challenges in water sharing and integrated basin management while promoting on-farm water efficient practices to improve incomes for Pakistani farmers.
Federal Minister Rana Tanveer thanks Australia for the generous initiative and said that water is life line for the agriculture sector but it is depleting at a fast level. He counted various initiative started by the ministry of Science and Technology in the water sector.
Chief food security, Planning Development and Reform, said on the occasion that currently the country has the capability to store only 9 percent of the water resource of the country. He said that they are planning to increase Pakistan’s water reserve from 30 days to 90 days.