ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has asked the government to generate funds for construction of future dams through water pricing and contended that 25 per cent funds required for a major reservoir could be acquired from people.
“Water pricing mechanism should be improved to get revenue for construction of dams,” the chief justice conveyed, according to minutes of a recent meeting, to the ministries of planning, water resources, energy, law and justice, climate change and the cabinet division, besides professional and technical agencies and provincial governments.
Presiding over the meeting of the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) attended by senior representatives of the ministries, Indus River System Authority, National Engineering Services Pakistan, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and Indus Water Commission and private experts, the chief justice said the issue of water scarcity had reached an alarming level that was fatal to the lives and livelihood of the citizens of Pakistan.
He said resolution of the issue was “responsibility of the executives and failure to discharge this responsibility has resulted in taking up of this issue by the superior judiciary as breach of fundamental right i.e. right to life”.
The Planning Commission told the meeting that the national water policy approved by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had identified 30-40 areas for urgent works that would take four to five years to achieve all goals. It recommended a six-month action plan and noted that Pakistan had limited water resources of its own as all water was coming from neighbouring countries.
“It is the need of the time to devise a strong mechanism to defend our water resources to get our fair share out of trans-boundary water,” the commission quoted the water policy as saying and added that Pakistan was losing each and every case at the forums of World Bank and international arbitrations due to wastage of water and hence construction of dams was being prioritised.
It was argued that wastage of available water was the main cause of its scarcity which had to be addressed by improved water administration, pricing and punishments. “It is equally important to fix the price and tax water and take necessary legal action against the violators and defaulters,” the commission said.
Chief Justice Nisar asserted that the judiciary would find a solution to the water shortage in the country. He said it was very crucial because he had been told by experts during the course of hearing of a related case that Pakistan could not survive in this situation of water scarcity and that all research reports showed Pakistan was going to face severe shortage of water or even out of water by 2024.
Therefore, the CJP told the participants, new dams had to be constructed without further overburdening the nation with the curse of debts and the “apex court will also extend financial support but subject to submission of action plan”. He contended that “1/4th expenses on construction of a dam can be acquired from the people of Pakistan”.
He said every construction settlement and housing societies should have water sewerage systems and asked for an action plan to address the issue of waste water management.
Former Wapda chairman and provincial minister Shamsul Mulk reported that 60-70 million acre feet (MAF) of water was going to the sea due to non-availability of dams and the country would have no water in future if this continued. He called for building small, medium and large dams to save water and asserted that Kalabagh dam was crucial to the country and its importance could not be overlooked.
Mr Mulk contended that if Kalabagh dam was not constructed, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would not be able to get its share of water in future and reiterated that this dam “is the only cheapest power generation source in the country and due to its non-construction, Pakistan is losing Rs196 billion every year”.
He explained that one MAF of water contributed $2bn to the United States economy while in Pakistan it contributed $600 million. “Therefore, if 60 MAF water is wasted, this results in $36bn losses annually and if the average is taken for 70 years then it equals $2.520 trillion,” the former Wapda chief said.
The LJCP meeting’s minutes revealed that the chief justice, Shamsul Mulk and all other stakeholders “unanimously resolved that Kalabagh dam, without any doubt, is indispensable to meet water and electricity needs of the country”.
Former director of Kalabagh dam Engineer Mumtaz Ahmed criticised the performance of the Indus Water Commissioner for Pakistan for “underperforming” and being “a mud of corruption” and requested the CJP to constitute a judicial commission for a probe into the matter. He alleged that black sheep and traitors were working in the system as Pakistan had lost the case against construction of Kishanganga dam and could be defeated again.
Syed Mehr Ali Shah, the Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters, said the country had suffered $19bn losses over the past six years due to floods and $38bn losses since 1950. He said that 1.3 million tube wells had drastically reduced the groundwater level while 40pc of extracted water was hazardous to health. He suggested that tube well be brought under the legal framework and taxation and pricing system.
Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2018