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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s water issues cannot be seen in isolation, but must be dealt with while considering their economic, political and cultural aspects, environmentalist Dr Daanish Mustafa said on Wednesday.

The debate on water issues in Pakistan has become a source of mistrust between people from different provinces, and keeping in view their extreme positions it is difficult to cover their opinions while finding solutions to contemporary water problems.

While the water and security challenges are substantial, the cultural and social capital realised through water must not be underestimated, he said.

Dr Mustafa is a reader in politics and environment at the King’s College London.

Small farmers bear the brunt of water scarcity, says Dr Daanish Mustafa

He was speaking on ‘Hydro-hazardscapes of Climate Change in Pakistan’, a lecture organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

He said water scarcity issues facing Pakistan are solvable, but institutions and water managers lack vision and understanding of workable solutions.

The discussion was opened by SDPI’s Imran Khalid, who said water and climate change are urgent matters that demand a thorough debate and the right actions at every level.

Dr Mustafa also gave a detailed presentation, in which he said that commuting climate change and its impact in future terms was not the right strategy, and the people’s immediate issues should be addressed, including the contemporary water scarcity issue facing Pakistanis.

He said in the present context, groundwater in the lower reaches of the Indus Basin is salty and therefore unusable for most purposes, while the water table is rising in some areas to such an extent that plants can no longer grow in the soil.

He said the basin can actually be divided into two zones, where there is no water scarcity in the freshwater zone but people living in the saline groundwater zone are facing urgent problems.

He said small farmers bear the brunt of water scarcity, most of whom have to buy their inputs on credit and as a result of poor harvests are unable to repay their debts.

He said this phenomenon is contributing to an urbanisation rate higher than any other in South Asia.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2017