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ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources on Thursday expressed serious concerns on non-availability of data of underground water and Pakistan’s future in terms of water resources.

The meeting presided over by Senator Musadik Masood Malik considered the starred question regarding details/table of underground water level in every district of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last 10 years and ascertainment of decrease in water level in the whole country and the steps taken by the government to cope up with the issue. This was raised by Senator Fida Muhammad in the Senate sitting held on July 13, 2021.

As the meeting started Chairman Committee showed resentment on the late provision of the working papers from the Ministry and said it had been requested time and again to the Ministry to send the working papers 4 to 5 days prior to the meeting so that a detailed study could be done on the agenda.

Senator Musadik Masood Malik showed great concern over no development in the water sector over the years. He said that after the 18th amendment water sector was devolved to the provinces however the Federal Government is here to fully support the solutions of the hurdles coming in the way of development within its constitutional parameters.

While inquiring on the data of the underground water level of all the provinces, Chairman Standing Committee, in his maiden meeting, showed great surprise that how come the water sector is running without having any information on the groundwater data.

“Half of the water of Pakistan comes from Gilgit Baltistan but no survey so far has been taken place,” he said, raising a question on the strength of Human Resource of the water ministry to which the officials replied that there are 108 staff members.

Chairman Standing Committee also inquired about the total budget of water department of Gilgit Baltistan to which the committee was informed that Rs4 billion for a project and a budget of Rs280 million had been allocated for the water sector.

The Chairman committee dismayed that even after such a budget the water sector was running without any concrete data in hand. Similarly, the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh were unable to provide ground water data on which the Chairman showed great displeasure.

Senator Taj Haider ensured the data collection task within two weeks from the province of Sindh. The Chairman said the Ministry was sending letters for an update but the matter was pending for the last three months. The Committee unanimously noted that the future of Pakistan in terms of water resources was questionable and steps needed to be taken to solve it to provide quantity and quality of water as per the country’s resources to the respective provinces.

The officials of the Ministry of Water Resources informed the committee that no groundwater regulatory framework was present in Pakistan.

“Everyone anywhere through any system has the liberty to obtain groundwater without any licensing laws or monitoring.”

The officials informed the committee that they primarily depended on the driller and that they also had capacity issues as well as issues pertaining to data in order to meet the problem of groundwater.

Senator Sardar Shafiq raised a question on the performance of PCRWR and enquired about their performance in researching water resources in the country.

While talking about Burj Aziz Khan Dam and Mangi Dam, Senator Sardar Shafiq Tareen commented that it was feared that Mangi Dam would provide water only to Quetta Cantt and Burj Aziz Khan would facilitate DHA, if that happened how would the residents of Quetta be provided water? Senator Sardar Shafiq said the committee must play its active role to solve the problems of water resources in Balochistan.

Senator Dr Muhammad Hamayun Mohmand also inquired about the preservation of rainwater. The officials informed that “the flowing water goes in the system but is lost in terms of its utilization.” The officials said the water resources needed to be exploited and explored. “The legal framework is required and water policies need to be approved. Water Act which was approved by Punjab and then KP should also be adopted by other provinces.”

The committee was informed that a five-meter per year depletion had taken place in Quetta. The committee was disappointed to know that why it took five years for that depletion to continue and no action had been taken so far for water depletion.

The Chairman Committee put forward a plan of action and timeframe to streamline the concerns regarding the solution of the water sector. He also put forward the recommendation to have a meeting with the NGO’s of different provinces on water logging and water depletion. He also sought a report from Sindh Government on GW depletion within two weeks.

The meeting was attended by Senators, Dr Muhammad Hamayun Mohmand, Fida Muhamamd, Sardar Shafiq Tareen, Taj Haider, Qurat ul Ain Murray, Faisal Ali Subzwari, Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen and senior officers from the concerned department.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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