Pakistan Water Week 2021 kicks off to explore sustainable ways in a climate crisis

12:19 AM | 7 Dec, 2021

ISLAMABAD – The Pakistan Water Week 2021, a four-day international conference aimed at bringing together academics, government officials, NGOs, and policy experts from home and abroad to discuss the water issues facing the country, begins on Monday.

The conference, which will continue till Thursday in the federal capital, under the theme ‘Needs for Sustainable Water Management in a Climate Crisis for Indus Basin', has been organised by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Pakistan in collaboration with the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE). 

Speaking at the conference, Dr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan said Pakistan’s increasing vulnerability to climate change required urgent action on the management of water resources and for an improved system of water conservation at national and local levels.

President Alvi said climate change was the key factor affecting the reliability of water resources across the globe and raising concerns about the future of water availability in countries including Pakistan.

He stressed simultaneous steps to address the issue of water management, such as the policy on water-pricing to inculcate a responsible approach among the masses to save valuable commodities.

He emphasized the practices to reduce water consumption including drip irrigation instead of flood farming, water recycling, and reallocating water for more valuable uses.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Senator Shibli Faraz said water conservation and management was an issue of major concern for the government in view of the depletion of groundwater resources.

He said managing the vast resources of Himalayan glaciers and the country’s fourth-largest aquifer was a big challenge to restore the ecosystem for the benefit of people.

To improve water governance, he said, data sharing was important and mentioned that PCRWR and Capital Development Authority had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on artificial groundwater recharge, making Islamabad the first with such arrangement. 

Mark Smith, Director General IWMI, who was a keynote speaker at the event, highlighted that globally, water security is under pressure like never before. "Stresses on water resources are converging – as population growth drives down per capita availability of freshwater, and like water for agriculture and expanding cities drives up demand, so much of the wastewater we generate goes untreated.

"Now, on top of these forces, we have to wake up to climate change – we have to be clear that ‘climate change is water change’ - and that therefore water security has never been more important or more urgent," he added.

Mr. Smith said Pakistan and the Indus Basin face these same challenges, but with even greater intensity. "The implication is that this conference should be the start of a transformational journey for water management in Pakistan – to safeguard the poor and marginalized communities and all the people of Pakistan."

IWMI Country Representative, Dr Mohsin Hafeez, on the occasion, warned that Pakistan will be facing water scarcity by 2035, especially in the face of climate change. "COVID-19 has also emphasised the importance of strengthening the resilience of water supply systems. Pakistan needs to redouble its efforts to achieve the goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country on its centenary anniversary in 2047. Therefore, the development investments and policies need to be informed by research, not hypotheses, no matter how plausible those hypotheses may be," he told the gathering.

The Pakistan Water Week provides the best international scientific practices and guidance for future investment to develop more climate-resilient water and land solutions in the Indus Basin, he added.

The conference, first of its kind, will also focus on digital innovations, climate-resilient solutions, nature-based solutions, and the role of women’s leadership and of the media in the context of water will also be explored.

The main purpose of the event is to identify strategies to meet the competing water needs of different sectors, identify sustainable water management strategies that take climate change into account.