Pakistan Water Week 2023: Federal secretary calls for change in agricultural practices

The Federal Secretary Ministry of Water Resources, Syed Ali Murtaza on Monday highlighted that water governance was a key issue and water management and agriculture practices need to be changed in Pakistan.

Addressing an international conference in connection with ‘Pakistan Water Week 2023’ he said the event has brought together the experts for an important discussion on a crucial issue being faced by the country.

The conference, ‘Transformative Pathways for Water and Food System in a Climate Resilient Pakistan’ was organized by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), and CGIARs Water, Land and Ecosystems Programme

Secretory Murtaza said water scarcity is due to the usage in the agriculture sector, adding that the Punjab Water Act gives a governance framework to the province for water allocation for different sectors.

‘The act also focuses on licensing and wastewater and use of surface and groundwater and we thank FCDO for supporting the implementation of the Punjab Water Act,’ he said and added that Sindh and Balochistan provinces should also frame their water act soon.

He also highlighted the need for a holistic rather than a piecemeal approach to achieving the goal of efficient water usage.
‘We are also facing issues due to the Indus Water Treaty and eastern rivers have completely gone dry,’ he regretted but added that the government was committed to efficient use of water.

The federal secretary admitted that the water table was going down in Lahore and Multan and water acts can play a role to avoid that.

Meanwhile, Dr Mark Smith, Director General IWMI, said that climate change was changing water regimes and Pakistan is also facing the same vulnerability.

Smith stressed that global efforts are underway to reduce the swift rise in temperature and the Conference of Parties (COP) currently underway in Dubai is also focusing on the challenges being faced by nature.

He praised the joint efforts being put forth by IWMI, CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), and provincial governments of Balochistan and Sindh for policy implementation for water and food security.

‘We are working with FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) on improving water governance in Punjab by implementing the Punjab Water Act 2019,’ he said.

He also announced the launch of CGIAR’s initiative on Fragility, Conflict, and Migration (FCM) in Pakistan to enhance the resilience of food, land, and water systems in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Claudia Ringler (Co-Lead NEXUS Gains and Director, Natural Resources and Resilience) said that the number of hungry people has risen from 564 million in 2014 to 735 million in 2022, adding that the number in Pakistan is 43 million.

Elaborating that extreme weather events cause welfare loss, the expert quoted that Pakistan suffered a loss worth USD 2.1 billion as a result of climate change as per the estimates.

Stressing that the First World needs to take steps effectively to stem the tide of extreme weather events, the expert highlighted that countries like Pakistan should also work for climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Dr. Ringler focused on utilizing the NEXUS Gains Approach which is improving water, energy, food, ecosystem, and health sectors for having a joint solution to all these sectors and can reduce rice acreage in Pakistan by 15 percent, consequently leading to two million acre-feet of water saving.

Director, Water, Food and Ecosystems, IWMI, Dr. Mohsin Hafeez said Pakistan has 6th largest population in the world, is 77th in the food security index, and 8th most climate-vulnerable country, which is directly affecting water and food security in the country.

‘Despite reported figures suggesting that 90% of water is utilized in agriculture, the lack of scientific studies casts doubt on the reliability of this information,’ Dr Mohsin said.

The water expert highlighted that Pakistan Water Week 2023 aims to carry forward the momentum from its successful inauguration as Pakistan’s flagship international conference to discuss the critical climate challenges of Pakistan.

‘The Water Week will provide a platform for them to share insights and collaborate in building resilience for Pakistan,’ Dr Mohsin said.

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