Draft for establishing WATRA finalized: Minister


ISLAMABAD, Apr 2 (APP):Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul on Tuesday said that government was working on the establishment of a Water Table Regulatory Authority (WATRA) to regularize the ground water table to conserve swiftly depleting underground water reservoir in the country.

The Climate Change Ministry has finalized the draft for the formulation of the authority and it would be presented before the federal cabinet for formal approval, she said while addressing the seminar “Economics of Water, Energy and Food”, organized by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in collaboration with Asia Foundation and Australian Government.

Speaking on the occasion, Gul said that until and unless such authority would not be set up, the water depletion and wastage would remain continued and country would face losses in terms of socio-economic degradation.

She said that government was working on mitigation and adaptation mechanisms for ensuring food securities & food energies and was also working with the Planning Commission of Pakistan for conservation of thousands of cusecs water being wasted, coming from Southern Punjab.

She said that she had submitted three proposals in this regard with the Planning Ministry for constructing small dams which would help in water conservation besides leaving positive impact on environment and development of agriculture sector in the catchment areas.

Zartaj Gul said that water sector was badly ignored by all of the so-called democratic regimes during last 35 years and our country had paid huge toll for that negligence in terms of three consecutive flash floods in 2010 to 2012, which had destroyed the agriculture land, livestock and human lives.

Meanwhile, many areas of the Balochistan Province were facing drought like situation, the water table was reduced drastically and had reached to 12,000 feet beneath which was badly impacting the bio-diversity, agriculture, livestock as well as human health.

She said that after these devastation on large scale, the provincial governments and their functionaries had remained busy on photo sessions, adding that not any concrete measures or policies were devised for the mitigation of such untoward situations.

She said water issue was inflicted upon us from the existence of Pakistan and due to that World Bank had jumped into it and Indus Treaty was made for the justified distributions of water resources between Pakistan and India.

India had build several dams and constructed many barrages for water conservation by diverting the flow of rivers and was continuously trying to deprive Pakistan from its water share and on the other hand we had remained to present them mango crates and sarees (one of the popular outfits of India and Pakistan), she remarked.

The minister said that the outcomes of the event would help the government for appropriate policy formulation on the vital issues of economics of water, energy and food.

Speaking on the occasion, Australian High Commissioner Margrate Adamson said that it was encouraging that stakeholders from the academia, policy makers and experts gathered for sharing their thoughts on such an important issue.

She said that Pakistan like Australia was heavily relying on agriculture, which was a major part of both economies, besides both the countries shares the similarities in governance system.

We also share the features of water stress and scarcity and need to harness the situation carefully for the socio-economic development and betterment of the people.

She said that agriculture was an important pillar of Pakistan’s economy and heart of local exports, adding that water was the vital resource of it and very much need for cities as it was also a fundamental tool for life and other industrial units.

She said that Pakistan was among the top highly vulnerable countries in terms of climate change, adding that a World Bank survey had also revealed that Pakistan could save US$ 12 billion per annum by using water efficiently.

She said that Australian Government was working since 1980 with Pakistan for the development of its agriculture sector and provided financial and technical supports for value addition of agriculture products and fruits particularly mangoes and citrus among others.

She informed that it was also providing support for the cultivation of high value food crops, pulses and discouraging the cultivation of water hungry crops to preserve the water.

Meanwhile, Secretary Planning highlighted the government initiatives for water source development and measures to conserve water resource.