Expert stresses desilting of dams to meet water needs

Published April 28, 2019
ARIF Hasan speaks at FUUAST on Saturday.—White Star
ARIF Hasan speaks at FUUAST on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: “There has not been much thought given to the silting issue when speaking of dams here. The capacity in Mangla and Tarbela dams has decreased in the last 40 years due to silting. So are we to build a new dam every 40 years due to this?” said architect and town planner Arif Hasan during his inaugural speech at the Water Conference titled ‘Political Economy and Issues of Water Management’ organised by the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences at the Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan Auditorium of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology here on Saturday.

He also said that there was also the issue of the Indus delta, which is also going into the background these days. “Some engineers believe that the water which flows into the sea is wasted. And no one is challenging this notion anymore. A former chief justice also thought so and said that he won’t let a drop of water be wasted this way. He even went further by saying that those who were against the building of new dams were enemies of the state,” he said.

Coming to a third issue regarding water here, he said that around 92 to 95 per cent of water in Pakistan was being used by the agriculture sector and the population of this country of about 200 million was fast growing. “Then what will we do when the population needs will increase and they will need more water? Where will they get water from? Therefore, water conservation is also needed,” he said.

‘No one is challenging the notion that the water flowing into the sea is wasted’

He also said that as a fourth issue, the underground water table was going down for which there was a huge need for proper water management, coming to things such as regulating of water pumping, storing rainwater, water rationing in cities with bulk metering, etc, which needed maintenance budgets and infrastructure investment.

Executive director of Roots for Equity Dr Azra Talat Sayeed spoke about ‘Understanding water dynamics’. Sharing figures, she said that the total water of the world added up to around 1,359 million cubic kilometres comprising mostly of ocean and inland seas. “Around 97.2pc of the water is ocean and inland seawater while the fresh water is 2.8pc. And three-fourths of the fresh water is in the glaciers,” she said. “But this ratio has been disrupted and our water reservoirs are at risk. Therefore that talk of dams.”

Environmentalist and researcher Nasir A. Panhwar, speaking about ‘Sea intrusion and the delta’ said that all over the world, rivers naturally flowed into the sea. But out here it was the sea flowing into the Indus delta. “The Indus delta is a unique coastal system where the sea and river meet, where the soil is very fertile due to the accumulation of silt from the river for thousands of years. But after the diversion of the upstream water the amount of silt has become less while bringing up various threats to the delta,” he pointed out while explaining about the 17 major creaks starting from the Gizri Creek to Sir Creek in the delta.

“Due to the diversion there is less freshwater flow in the delta now and an intrusion of the sea, a man-made disaster,” he said. “And because of the sea intrusion, the land is losing its fertility.”

Earlier, Dr Huma Ghaffar, Irtiqa’s president, said that water was essential, whether for livelihoods, health, food security or general economic development. “In Pakistan, population growth, elite capture of public benefits, rapid urbanisation and shifts in production and consumption patterns have placed unprecedented stress on water resources,” she said. “Coupled with institutional, operational, and governance failures, increasing pressure over water use and misuse is fostering domestic discord.”

Economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, Abrar Kazi, Mansoor Raza, Idris Rajput, Irshad Bohio, Hassan Abbas, Rubina Abro and Kaleem Durrani also spoke.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2019

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