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KARACHI: Pakistan continues to confront water management crisis in the recent decades as one of the “biggest” issues, as experts on Thursday called for a long term planning and efforts to meet with future challenges.

“Water management is one of the biggest issues that Pakistan has been facing in recent decades,” Malik Amin Aslam, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change warned at a virtual dialogue about Recharge Pakistan.

The online discussion was regarding the 30-year programme focusing on building Pakistan’s resilience to climate change through ecosystem-based adaptations for integrated flood risk management. At the moment, he said that “our water storage capacity is close to 10 percent, which is very low compared to the world, where the average is about 40 percent”.

The event was joined by government officials and national and international experts from WWF.

Malik Amin Aslam said that the Recharge Pakistan is one of the government’s priority programmes that encompasses nature-based solutions.

He added that glaciers melting in the north coincide with monsoons in the southern part of the country, coming together to create floods and super floods, which damage infrastructure and cause devastating economic loss.

He expressed concern that this water is not utilised properly nor is it adequately stored. He added that there are 14 wetlands on the left and right banks of the Indus and these sites, although being close to this mass of water, have been degraded due to pollution and other anthropogenic factors.

He emphasised that there is a need to use this water to restore wetlands and allow it to recharge groundwater aquifers which are being depleted. “We have decided to put government finances behind this initiative and this year, we will be planning for at least a billion rupees to be spent to focus on two or three pilot sites,” he remarked.

The Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources (Federal Flood Commission) and WWF-Pakistan, will be implementing different initiatives related to flood water management and climate change mitigation under this programme.

The programme will address imminent and emerging environmental challenges the country faces such as super floods, droughts, widespread rains, among others, and will focus on building climate resilience for the most vulnerable communities living in the Indus Basin.

The programme consists of three phases and each phase spans over a period of ten years. This long-term project envisions that by 2050, ecosystem-based adaptation contributes towards better climate resilience, water and food security, and sustainable livelihoods.

More than 10 million people, which makes around five percent of Pakistan’s population, will directly benefit from the project, while 20 million people across 50 vulnerable districts of Pakistan will be indirect beneficiaries.

Recharge Pakistan programme will be implemented in selected sites, spanning over a stretch of 1,300km of the Indus River, across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. These sites will be selected based on flood risks, climate projections, water storage, recharge potential, and the needs of the communities.

Speaking on the occasion, Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan said that in the last two decades, Pakistan has faced serious climatic events and incidents of widespread rains and super floods are increasing in intensity and frequency in the Indus Basin, resulting in serious humanitarian and economic repercussions.

Overall, changes in the climatic conditions are impacting the populations of diverse animals and plants in the region, as well as livelihoods.

He emphasised that to address the issues of flood waters and climate change, integrated flood risk management is now a key national priority and added that this project proposes to undertake ecosystem-based adaptation measures that will store flood water in wetlands, floodplains and depressions (green infrastructure) at several priority sites along the project area.

Recharge Pakistan contributes to the relevant policies and commitments, including the National Climate Change Policy, National Flood Protection Plan IV, National Water Policy, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It will lead to additional water reservoir capacity in the river systems to regulate water discharges during high floods and will promote local rainwater harvesting and development of small storages on run of the rivers during peak flows. The webinar included a detailed presentation on the programme, followed by a panel discussion. Panellists included Ahmed Kamal, Chairman, Federal Flood Commission, Mohsin Hafeez, Country Director, International Water Management Institute and Dean Muruven, Global Policy Freshwater Lead, WWF.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021