Pakistan’s economy could be down to the last drop due to impending water crisis

Pakistan is facing a major risk of water crisis, according to a recent report bv the World Economic Forum. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 26 November 2018

Pakistan’s economy could be down to the last drop due to impending water crisis

  • Survey highlights other major risks such as unmanageable inflation and terrorist attacks
  • Measures to improve water management is the need of the hour, experts warn

KARACHI: According to a report filed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), titled “Regional Risks for Doing Business”, a water crisis was listed as the top risk among five faced by Pakistan’s economy. This was followed by other issues such as unmanageable inflation, terrorist attacks, urban planning failure, and critical infrastructure.

The report is based a survey conducted between January and June this year in five countries, namely Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

As Pakistan faces a threat to its water resources due to a lack of reservoirs and reduced storage capacities in existing dams, experts called for all-out efforts in both the public and private sectors to mitigate the impacts of the crisis.

“The government has started work on the construction of dams which will materialize in the long run. However, immediate action is required to address the problem in the short-term by improving water management,” Sanna Baxamoosa, General Manager of Hisaar Foundation – an organization working for water, food and livelihood security -- told Arab News on Monday.

“Around 90 percent of the water is being utilized in the country’s agriculture sector that needs to be managed in an efficient way by diverting a part of it to urban centers,” Baxamoosa said, adding that the perception that the “country with an abundant flow of fresh water will not run dry by 2025” is wrong.

Pakistan stores only 10 percent of the water flowing in its rivers, while 90 percent goes to waste due to lack of adequate facilities such as new reservoirs. To cope with the emerging water crisis, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has set up a dam fund, the proceeds of which will go towards the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams. Thus far, the fund has managed to raise 8 billion Pakistani rupees ($59.10million), with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, currently in London to attend several fundraising gatherings. Estimated cost of  Diamer-Bhasha Dam is around Rs 1450 billion ($10.78 billion) while the cost of Mohmand Dam is Rs 300 billion ($2.31 billion). 

According to the WEF report, unmanageable inflation remains the second-highest risk faced by Pakistan and the region. “South Asia benefited from low global oil prices between 2014–16, but a combination of rising energy prices and expansionary monetary and fiscal stances point to inflationary risks. There are already indications of mounting price pressures in some countries,” the report added.  

CPI inflation general increased by 6.8 percent on a year-on-year basis in October this year as compared to an increase of 5.1 percent in the previous month and 3.8 percent in October last year, according to data released by Pakistan’s Federal Bureau of Statistics. 

However, economists say that the government’s efforts to address the risks are on a positive trajectory. “The inflation is linked with the oil prices. The present government has negotiated with Saudi Arabia, China and other countries for financial support which once materializes would stabilize the currency and resultantly the prices would be eased,” Bilal Ahmed, a senior economist, said.

“Pakistan has successfully combated the menace of terrorism and the report has also downplayed it,” Ahmed said, adding that “in case of urban planning and critical infrastructure, there are some weaknesses but efforts are underway to improve infrastructure including development of new cities such as Gwadar”.

According to the WEF report, the 10 major risks in doing business in South Asia include failure of national governance, unmanageable inflation, unemployment and under-employment, failure of regional and global governance, cyber-attacks, failure of critical infrastructure, energy price shocks, failure of financial mechanism or institution, water crises, and large-scale involuntary migration. 

Shutdown and protests in Kashmir Valley after custodial death

Indian Kashmiri villagers shout anti-Indian slogans following the death of school teacher Rizwan Assad Pandith, in police custody in Awantipora of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar on March 19, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019

Shutdown and protests in Kashmir Valley after custodial death

  • Rizwan was one of six siblings and was planning to do a doctorate
  • A police statement said Rizwan had died in police custody and that he had been taken in for a “terror case investigation”

NEW DELHI: There have been protests and a shutdown in Indian-administered Kashmir following a custodial death, as residents warned that local anger over police brutality cannot be contained.

Rizwan Asad Pandit, 29, was declared dead on Tuesday by police after he was picked up late on Sunday night from his home.

His brother, Mubashir, said Rizwan had been taken to an interrogation center known locally as Kashmir’s torture camp.

“Police should tell us what the charges against Rizwan are and why he was killed in this manner,” Mubashir told Arab News.

“I could not look at the body of my brother when I saw it for the first time after his death. There was a cut on his forehead, his thigh was cut open, his eyes have been gouged out, his vital organs were damaged, it was such a gory sight to see.

“These security forces don’t have any human values, human compassion. Who treats a normal human being like this? What crime has Rizwan committed? I want justice for my brother. The whole of Kashmir is shocked by this inhumanity.”

A police statement said Rizwan had died in police custody and that he had been taken in for a “terror case investigation.”

Arab News contacted the inspector general of Jammu and Kashmir, S. P. Pani, but he refused to take questions related to Rizwan’s death.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but administer in part, and rebels have been fighting Indian rule for decades, demanding that Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or established as an independent country.

According to a report from a rights group, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 2018 was the deadliest year of the past decade in the Kashmir Valley.

It said a total of 586 people were killed in 2018, of which 160 were civilians. The remaining numbers comprised 267 militants and 159 members of the Indian armed forces and Jammu and Kashmir police.

“In Kashmir, custodial killing has become normalized with overlapping tragedies,” Khurram Parvez, a Srinagar-based activist, told Arab News. “The incident has created anger. The issue is that when the prime minister of the country says that he has given free hand to the soldiers, this emboldens the soldier on the ground who feel that he is not accountable to anyone.”

Nobody was saying what the charges were against Rizwan, he added, or who arrested him. He asked what kind of investigation could be expected when basic information was not being provided. 

“The tragedy is that all these killings and human rights violations are escalating tensions among the people. I feel it will further increase the frustration of young people in the valley.”

The valley observed a complete shutdown in response to calls for a strike by the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), an alliance of separatist leaders from the area.

There have also been protests since news of the custodial death became public.

Mubashir said that late on Sunday police came to the house and locked family members in one room while separating Rizwan from them. “Then the security personnel seized all our laptops and mobiles and took away Rizwan without telling us what the charges against him were.

“We came to know about his death only through social media. Police didn’t have the courtesy to inform us.”

Rizwan was one of six siblings and was planning to do a doctorate. He was a principal at a local private college and nurtured ambitions to be a professor.

“When you push the Kashmiris to wall, they will also push you back and react. The anger such kind of brutalities create among Kashmiris cannot be easily contained,” Mubashir said.

Dawood Riyaz lost his sight in his left eye following a pellet attack in 2017. He accused the Indian government of being “hell-bent” on destroying the young generation of Kashmiris.

“We are also human. We have the right to dissent. You cannot crush dissent with this level of brutality. Youngsters are really feeling frustrated with the regime in Delhi and its insensitivity,” he told Arab News.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a separatist leader and member of the JRL, said Rizwan’s death exposed the “helplessness, vulnerability, and insecurity” of Kashmiri lives even as the “impunity of authorities” kept rising.

Kashmir’s former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, tweeted: “I had hoped custodial deaths were a thing of our dark past. This is an unacceptable development and must be investigated in a transparent, time-bound manner. Exemplary punishment must be handed out to the killers of this young man.”