India, Pakistan water deal must be an ‘instrument of peace’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, arrives to attend a talk on Sustainable Development and Climate Change, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 17 February 2020

India, Pakistan water deal must be an ‘instrument of peace’

  • UN chief is in Islamabad for a conference on Afghan refugees

ISLAMABAD: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who arrived in Islamabad on Sunday morning on a four-day visit, said that the waters shared by Pakistan and India “must be a tool for peace and not war.”

His comments were part of an address on climate change in the capital.

Last year, when tensions between the two countries reached a tipping point, the UN chief was told by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that India had hinted at abandoning the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty — an agreement brokered by the World Bank — which could potentially start a water war.

“Water must be an instrument of peace and not an instrument of conflict,” Guterres said, referring to heightened security issues between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

“I would ask the two countries to have clear cooperation in relation to water. And I have some moral authority,” the UN chief said, adding that as prime minister of Portugal he had spearheaded a water-sharing agreement with neighboring Spain.

“If one country thinks (it can) solve the problem by letting others in a bad situation ... in the end things turn against everybody.”

On Sunday, Guterres said that 80 percent of the water used for agriculture by Pakistan — an agriculture-based economy — was at risk because of climate change.

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Pakistan has a 2030 goal to achieve 30 percent clean energy through renewable projects and 30 percent through hydro projects.

He said that it was unfair that Pakistan was at the front line of climate change’s negative impacts while contributing little to global environmental damage. 

“SDGs must be fulfilled by 2030. The world needs to reduce carbon emission levels. Our planet is burning and too many politicians continue to fiddle. We have to move from a grey to a green economy,” Guterres said, referring to a “climate emergency.” 

Following a keynote speech by the minister for climate change, the adviser to the PM on the topic, Amin Aslam, highlighted the dangers that Pakistan faces — and the government’s five-point agenda to address the core issues of climate change.

Pakistan has a 2030 goal to achieve 30 percent clean energy through renewable projects and 30 percent through hydro projects. 

During his visit, Guterres will also attend an international conference on Afghan refugees that is being hosted by Pakistan.

The two-day event, from Feb. 17-18, will mark four decades since refugees first moved to Pakistan to escape a decades-long conflict plaguing neighboring Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of 1979.

He is expected to hold talks with Pakistan President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, in addition to other senior officials.

PM Khan will inaugurate the Afghan refugees’ conference, which is expected to host the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, and ministers and senior officials from about 20 countries “who have been supporting the Afghan refugees across the globe and in Pakistan,” the FO said in a statement last week.

Pakistan is host to nearly 1.4 million registered refugees, as corroborated by the UNHCR.

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China raises flood alert to second highest level

Updated 12 July 2020

China raises flood alert to second highest level

  • Regional flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi has made water levels of China’s Lake Poyang surge to above 22.52 meters
BEIJING/SINGAPORE: China on Sunday raised its flood response alert to the second highest grade as downpours continued to batter regions along the Yangtze River, with the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Jiangxi among the worst hit, state media reported.
Regional flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi has made water levels of China’s Lake Poyang, its biggest freshwater lake, surge to above 22.52 meters, a historical high and well above the alert level of 19.50 meters.
By Saturday evening, provincial military authorities had dispatched thousands of soldiers to help bolster nearly 9 km (6 miles) of the lake’s banks to prevent them from bursting, state television said.
China has a four-tier flood control emergency response system, with level one representing the most severe.
Citing data from the Ministry of Water Resources, 212 rivers have since early July exceeded alerting levels including 19 of them rising to historical highs.
China has blamed extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change for the torrential rain that has since June hit large swathes of the country and caused over 60 billion yuan ($8.57 billion) of economic losses.