CCI unanimously approves national water policy

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Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah signing the National Water Charter. The spirit of camaraderie proved to be short-lived as hours later three chief ministers walked out of the NEC meeting.—Online
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah signing the National Water Charter. The spirit of camaraderie proved to be short-lived as hours later three chief ministers walked out of the NEC meeting.—Online

ISLAMABAD: The Coun­cil of Common Interests (CCI) on Tuesday formally approved the National Water Policy (NWP) with consensus and directed Wapda, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to work out net hydel profit arrears for the two provinces in accordance with the A.G.N. Kazi formula.

A meeting of the CCI presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also approved the National Water Charter that was signed by the four chief ministers.

The first-ever National Water Policy, which had faced delays for more than a decade, was finally approved on Tuesday after removal of provincial reservations over its language.

The Centre and the provinces agreed under the policy that selection of water reservoirs would be made with consensus in line with the 1991 water apportionment accord and after thorough examination of their impact on sea intrusion, environmental protection and provincial water rights to secure surplus water in the system.

The policy acknowledges the need to adopt the NWP with an initial target of increasing storage capacity from existing 14 million acre feet (MAF) by immediately starting the construction of 6.4 MAF Diamer-Bhasha dam which had already been cleared by the CCI back in 2009.

The meeting was told that Pakistan was rapidly becoming a water-scarce country and obligations towards the Sustainable Development Goals required adoption of an integrated water resource management. Popula­tion growth and water demands for various sectors of the economy necessitate urgent measures to enhance storage capacity.

The policy empowers the provinces to develop their master plans within a national framework for sustainable development and management of water resources. It concedes that water resource is a national responsibility, but irrigation, agriculture, water supply, environment and other water-related sub-sectors are provincial subjects.

Briefing the CCI, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz said the policy covered all water-related issues, including water uses and allocation of priorities, integrated planning for development and use of water resources, environmental integrity of the basin, impact of climate change, trans-boundary water sharing, irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, drinking water and sanitation, hydropower, industry, ground water, water rights and obligations, sustainable water infrastructure, water-related hazards, quality management, awareness and research, conservation measures, legal framework and capacity building of water sector institutions.

The CCI was told that implementation of the NWP would be undertaken through a national-level body namely National Water Council (NWC) to be headed by the prime minister and comprising the federal ministers for water resources, finance, power and planning, development and reforms and all provincial chief ministers. The NWC will oversee implementation of the NWP and a steering committee, headed by the federal minister for water resources, will monitor the implementation with representatives from federal and provincial governments and the departments concerned.

The policy recognises the need to provide at least 10 per cent of the federal Public Sector Development Programme to the water sector, gradually increasing it to 20pc by 2030. The provinces will also increase expenditure on the water sector as total allocation of Rs145 billion, 7pc of the combined federal and provincial development budget for 2017-18, was inadequate to address the challenges.

Under the policy, water losses currently estimated at 46 MAF a year have to be cut by 33pc by 2030 through canal and watercourse lining. Water efficiency will also be increased by 30pc by 2030 through improved technologies like drip and sprinkler irrigation and more realistic water pricing policy.

To establish and maintain a reliable assessment of water resources in the country, federal and provincial water sector organisations would develop a standardised and uniform mechanism for data collection of various parameters of water resources.

The policy also recommends that the federal government play a leading role in facilitating regulations to ensure efficient and sustainable utilisation of ground water, industrial uses and waste water management. As food security, water security and energy security are inextricably linked, the regulatory framework must address all associated issues comprehensively, the policy says.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2018