HYDERABAD: Speakers at a two-day conference on water and environment have feared that the situation relating to water scarcity would aggravate due to poor management of the water sector and contribution to insanitation, inadequate water supply and environment pollution.

Due to lack of implementation of policies and inefficient management, Pakistan could face water shortage by 2030, they said at the ‘Young Researchers’ National Conference on Water and Environment with a Focus on Urban WASH’, organised jointly by the Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS) and US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Water (USPCASW), Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), Jamshoro on Monday.

Addressing inaugural session of the conference, MUET Vice Chancellor Dr Aslam Uqaili said that concerted efforts were required for water and environment sectors. He said legislators, policymakers, industrialists and those associated with the agriculture sector would have to work jointly for better water and environmental management.

He said policies usually failed because sustainable development was always overlooked in the country. All those researches, that did not benefit common man in improvement of their life, could only be considered hypothetical research and knowledge.

He said that young scholars need to work for people and society.

The VC said the USPCASW was now receiving students and working staff from different provinces for advanced training on water- and environment-related subjects at the centre. That brought good name to the university, he said, adding that the present-day scenario of the water sector had become a political matter and that needed to be managed at all levels.

He said the country did not lack talented people, but in fact they were not encouraged to work in the right direction. He said the way Higher Education Commission chairman Tariq Banuri was removed from his position was quite “uncivilized”.

HANDS chief executive Dr Tanvir Ahmed Shaikh said efforts were required to bring improvement in the underdeveloped areas and for betterment of people of neglected areas. He said that varsities should also work beyond campuses to improve quality of life in different sectors.

He said HANDS was working in villages of 22 districts for ensuring development in education, health, nutritious food, potable drinking water, drainage system etc.

“We have launched water and sanitation schemes and we introduced livelihood programmes to promote entrepreneurship and assets transfer so poor communities may live safe,” he said.

Dr Mohammad Ashraf of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) discussed “valuing water” in the backdrop of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

He said water had greater economic value. If there was no punishment for polluters or violators, it would lead to water scarcity.

“We are using water lavishly, carelessly and leaving nothing behind and this attitude must change,” he urged.

Hisar Foundation chairperson Seemi Kamal said that water and environmental issues were in fact the question of human rights and called for reviewing municipal services. She said that there was no system to conserve water in monsoon rains. Rainwater must be conserved, she said, adding that recycling of water could also lead to saving of water.

Ms Kamal believed that Karachi had enough water for usage, but it needed behavioural changes and sustainable usage. “We have to understand about urban WASH (water sanitation and hygiene)”, she said.

She said many water scientists working in other countries in fact belonged to Pakistan, but they were yet to play a role to work for their own country to benefit people here. She said waste water should be used for urban forests as the concept was getting popularity. She said urban centres like Sukkur were contributing to contamination and pollution of river Indus through effluent disposal.

She said that all stakeholders should pressurize policymaking institutions and bodies and implementing agencies to produce people- and environmental-friendly policies.

Mehran University water centre director Dr Rasool Bux Mahar, Dr Kamran Ansari and Ghulam Mustafa Zounr also spoke.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2021

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