KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that under the National Water Policy (NWP) no new water storage/dam on the Indus River is acceptable until a consensus is developed among all the stakeholders.

He highlighted the need on Monday to amend the relevant laws to establish a National Water Council (NWC) with the prime minister as its chairman to review and coordinate implementation of the NWP and national water sector strategy in the country and periodic updating of the same and recommend legislation, policies and strategies for water resource development and management in the country.

The chief minister stated this while presiding over a preparatory meeting for the Council of Common Interests (CCI) moot scheduled for Tuesday in Islamabad in which the NWP would be discussed.

Irrigation secretary Jamal Shah briefing the CM said the amendment proposed by the Sindh government had been incorporated in the proposed NWP. They are to secure katcha areas and economy thereof; preservation of delta area by providing sufficient supplies regularly and rainwater disposal arrangement in plains where it cannot be disposed of or diverted to the river.

Plans to take up National Water Policy issue at CCI meeting in Islamabad today

He referred to the proposal given by the Sindh chief minister “to implement water apportionment accord 1991 in true letter and spirit and prevent its provision in para-2, from amendments/distortions at any level of forum”.

The distribution as elaborated shall be adjusted proportionately and distributed to the provinces accordingly. The chief minister said he would take up the issue again in the CCI meeting.

The irrigation secretary said the amendment proposed by the CM that “provinces are responsible for routine repair and maintenance of flood protection dykes, flood fighting and drainage. However, in case of a catastrophic situation like the 2010 flood, the federal government would provide supplementary funds” had not been incorporated in the revised draft policy.

The CM said the proposed amendment was necessary and he would again take it up. When he was informed that his amendment “Build large dams for system augmentation with consensus of all federating units” had not been incorporated, the CM said he was writing a letter to the prime minister with a request to formulate a policy under which new storage/dams would not be allowed without consensus, particularly of the lower riparian stakeholders.

He further said that the preface to the NWP should be “This National Water Policy recognises the internationally accepted right of lower riparian on water. Any diversions/intervention in the smooth flow of water would not be allowed until and unless the consensus of all federating units, particularly the lower riparian is achieved.”

Murad Ali Shah said Sindh and Balochistan had already faced serious water issues. The construction of new storages/dams would further cause devastation. “We would not accept the new water policy until and unless our proposed amendment is incorporated in the new policy,” he said.

National Water Council

Another amendment as proposed by the Sindh government that “A National Water Council shall be established with the composition: prime minister chairman, federal water and power minister, federal minister for climate change, federal minister of national food security and research ... chief ministers of provinces, provincial irrigation ministers, private sector’s members from water-related disciplines as members and advisers; chairman Federal Flood Commission would be secretary of the council. Prime Minister of AJK and chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan along with their irrigation or agriculture ministers will be invited to the meeting of NWC as observers.”

The functions of the NWC will be as follows:

a) Review and coordinate implementation of the National Water Policy and national water sector strategy in the country and periodic updating of the same;

b) Recommend legislation, policies and strategies for water resources development and management in the country;

c) National planning and coordination for water resources development and management activities among the organisations concerned at federal as well as provincial government level to achieve objective of NWP;

d) Create an enabling environment that shall promote broader multi-stakeholders’ participation and integrated water resources management with due consideration for environment and ecology;

e) Coordinate with the organisation concerned responsible for controlling pollution of water bodies, including rivers, streams, lakes and ground water;

f) Managing centralised water resources database service; and

g) Any other functions, which the CCI may assign to the council.

The CM said that these suggestions should be incorporated in the NWP. “I would take up all these issues in the meeting with the objective to safeguard the rights of smaller provinces, particularly the lower riparian,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2018

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