Govt asked to devise water conservation plans to cope with freshwater crisis

Published November 5, 2020
A file photo of Keenjhar Lake, one of Sindh’s major wetlands and freshwater bodies.—White Star
A file photo of Keenjhar Lake, one of Sindh’s major wetlands and freshwater bodies.—White Star

KARACHI: Speakers at a media workshop held on Wednesday at a local hotel warned that growing population and continued discharge of industrial and domestic waste into the environment coupled with increased extraction of groundwater were worsening the freshwater crisis in Pakistan, urging the government to come up with water conservation strategies.

The event was organised under a World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P) project titled International Labour and Environmental Standards (ILES) Application in Pakistan’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The project is currently being implemented in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Sialkot.

Explaining why the project is important, Dr Tahir Rasheed, WWF-P regional head, Sindh and Balochistan, cited a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report which ranked Pakistan third among the list of countries facing serious water shortages.

The surface and groundwater resources are fast depleting due to rapid urbanisation, pollution and changing climate

“The surface and groundwater resources are depleting at a fast pace due to multiple factors including rapid urbanisation, pollution and changing climate. On its part, the WWF-Pakistan in collaboration with various stakeholders including local communities is developing detailed water conservation plans to enhance water productivity and reduce wastage of water,” he told the audience. He also spoke about the significance of wetland conservation, emphasising that these natural assets needed to be rehabilitated as their destruction deprived fishing and farming communities of livelihood opportunities.

Call to promote nature-based solutions

“The rehabilitation and restoration of wetlands will also revive fish species and populations of resident and migratory birds,” he noted, underscoring the need for promoting nature-based solutions, such as rainwater harvesting systems, which could help address freshwater challenges.

ILES project manager Sohail Ali Naqvi said the leather and textile sectors were resource-intensive and generated a significant amount of waste water and solid waste pollution in the environment.

He shared that 23 leather and textile enterprises had implemented smart environmental management practices across the country to improve management of freshwater.

Mr Naqvi was of the view that the project would help build capacity of leather and textile industries in reducing carbon emissions and shifting to clean energies.

These sectors, he suggested, should adopt cleaner production techniques and improve environmental compliance throughout their supply chains. “This will help improve environmental sustainability and ensure better access to the international market.”

Referring to some export data, he said the textile sector was the most important manufacturing sector of Pakistan with an average share of about 59 per cent in national exports, valued at $10.042 billion during July 2018 to March 2019.

The sector contributed nearly one-fourth of industrial value-added production and provided employment to about 40pc of the industrial labour force.

The leather sector, he informed the audience, was the second largest export earning sector of Pakistan contributing 5pc of GDP and 5.4pc to the overall export earnings, contributing around $765m a year (2018-19). This sector, considered to be the most significant, played a critical role in revamping the economic spectrum of the country.

Highlighting features of the project, ILES senior officer Love Kumar said it’s a European Union (EU) funded project being implemented through the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and WWF-P.

“This six-year project aims to support the economic integration of Pakistan into a global and regional economy by increasing exports and competitiveness through improved compliance with labour and environmental standards,” he added.

WWF-P manager conservation Hamera Aisha also spoke.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2020

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