Political will required to build dams and avoid food and water scarcity, say experts

This file photo shows Pakistani children pushing wheelbarrows loaded with jerry cans full of drinking water from a state-run water tap on the outskirts of Quetta. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Political will required to build dams and avoid food and water scarcity, say experts

  • As much as 90 percent of Pakistan’s flowing water is wasted due to insufficient storage capacity.
  • The country is working on 26 water projects to deal with the situation.

KARACHI: As Pakistan faces a severe water shortage due to a lack of reservoirs and reduced storage capacity of existing dams, irrigation experts have called for political consensus to build new dams to avert a food and water crisis.
“If there was a lack of consensus on the construction of Kalabagh Dam, Pakistani governments should have built small dams,” Zulfiqar Halepoto, executive director of the Center for Social Change, told Arab News on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, it was not done.”
He added: “The trust deficit in the province of Sindh due to the non-compliance of agreed formulas has also made it difficult to create consensus on the issue and ensure water security.”
The country’s Minister for Water Resources Syed Javed Ali Shah told the National Assembly on Monday that the existing reservoirs could only store 14 million acre-foot (MAF) or 10 percent of the annual river flows. The rest — 90 percent — of the water was wasted, he said.
“As of April 4 this year, the domestic water storage capacity was at its lowest,” Shah said while responding to a question by Sheikh Rohail Asghar, a fellow parliamentary member. “The available water storage capacity in the three main reservoirs is just 0.018 MAF against last year’s storage of 0.506 MAF.”
He said that the situation would improve after the completion of 26 projects that are under construction to manage river flows. “Once completed, the storage capacity of these projects will be 7.32 MAF, with the Diamer-Bhasha dam capable of storing 6.4 MAF.”
For the Bhasha dam, about 31,695 acres of land out of a total of 37,419 acres has already been acquired. Diamer-Bhasha dam would be completed by 2025-26, Shah told parliament.
He said that the two projects were expected to be finished during the current fiscal year; 13 would be completed in the next fiscal year; six by 2020; and the remaining would be done after 2020.
Halepoto said that the government did not have a clear policy or visionary approach to deal with the issue, though water crisis was a clear and present danger.
He said that there was no place for reservoir construction on the Chenab or Jhelum rivers, pointing out that only the Indus river could accommodate such structures. “However, political will is a must for such decisions,” he said.
Idrees Rajput, former irrigation secretary of Sindh, called for the immediate construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam. “Reservoirs are important to store water when it flows in excess and falls in the sea without any utilization,” he said.
“In order to avert a crisis, steps must be taken to construct dams to increase the overall water storage capacity,” Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, chairman of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, told Arab News. “Other than that, the country needs to introduce a groundwater regulatory framework and population control.”
Pakistan has recently introduced a water charter that recognizes the dangers of water shortage in the country, saying that it poses a grave threat to food, energy and water security.
“Today, Pakistan’s water economy is in acute danger of running dry. Our per capita availability of water, which was above 5,200 cubic meters at the time of independence, has now dropped below the minimum threshold of 1,000 cubic meters per head, officially making us a water-scarce country. The prevalent water scarcity is inching toward a full-blown water crisis and is likely to become an existential threat, unless we act decisively,” the document said.


India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

Updated 18 min 36 sec ago

India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

  • India’s coast guard seized $42 million worth of ketamine

NEW DELHI: India’s coast guard has arrested six Myanmar men and seized $42 million worth of ketamine after spotting a suspicious vessel in the Indian Ocean near the Nicobar Islands.
The 1,160-kilogram drug haul came after coast guard aircraft spotted the boat, which had its lights off, on Wednesday in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the defense ministry said in a statement.
The boat’s crew did not respond to radio calls and the coast guard eventually boarded it, with officials finding “57 gunny bundles of suspicious substance” on Friday.
“Preliminary analysis ... revealed that the suspicious substance was ketamine and there were 1,160 packets of 1kg each onboard the vessel,” the ministry added.
The six Myanmar men and cargo were taken to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they were questioned by investigators.
They claimed they left Myanmar on September 14 and were due to rendezvous with another boat “operating near the Thailand-Malaysia maritime border line” on Saturday, the statement said.
The Nicobar Islands are located near Southeast Asia, off Myanmar’s coast.
Parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are in the lawless “Golden Triangle” zone, the world’s second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.
Large amounts drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are churned out in remote jungle labs each year and smuggled across Asia and beyond.