ISLAMABAD: Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif Tuesday agreed with lawmakers to hold an All Parties Conference (APC) for evolving consensus on construction of water reservoirs and effective strategy for water management in country.
“No doubt, there should be an APC on the water issue too, as it is called on other issues of national importance,” the minister said in response to APC suggestions of parliamentarians during the National Assembly debate on construction of new water reservoirs to overcome its scarcity.
The House had adopted the motion moved by Muhammad Muzammil Qureshi of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to discuss the issue.
Asif said the issue was of great significance for all provinces as there were conflicting views among them on construction of new water dams. “Electricity problem will be solved in three to four years, but it seems that the water issue will take time to settle,” he remarked. He said the Parliament, being a sovereign institution, was the appropriate forum to take up and resolve all important issues, adding its matters should not be referred to other institutions for settlement.
Earlier, lawmakers from both the opposition and treasury benches highlighted the importance of constructing new small and big water dams, besdies improving the existing water management system.
They were of the view that an APC should be called to evolve consensus on dams and the projects, having conflicting views, should be avoided in supreme national interest.
Sher Akbar of Jamaat-i-Islami said no significant water reservoir was built after the Tarbela Dam and called upon the government to construct dams on priority to meet the growing energy needs and tackle water shortage in the country. He said Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkwa provinces had reservations over the Kala Bagh Dam (KBD) and the government should refrain from initiating disputed projects.
Abdul Sattar Bachani of Pakistan Peoples Party said construction of small dams at a minimum cost was more viable as compared to big reservoirs. Dr Amjad Niazi of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said as per a study published in an international journal Pakistan’s biggest issue would be water after the year 2025.
He highlighted importance of building new water reservoirs on war-footings to tackle energy crisis, ensure provision of clean drinking water, bring maximum land under cultivation and protect people from floods.
Leader of Qaumi Wattan Party Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao termed water ‘life’ and underlined the need to build reservoirs at rivers Kabul and Swat as it would help generate sufficient electricity and store water for drinking and irrigation purposes.
He said there should be an effective strategy to tackle floods and bring down the scale of their devastation.
Maulana Gohar Shah of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl stressed to construct the Munda Dam at the earliest as it would help irrigate more barren land and generate employment especially in its surrounding localities. Dr Muhammad Afzal Khan of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said evolving consensus on KBD was must as no project could be initiated at the cost of national unity. He said it was strange that in some parts of the country some people are drowning in flood waters and some are dying of non-availability of water.
He said the Greater Thar Canal project should be completed at the earliest so water could reach the Thar areas, which were in dire need of water. “Projects should be initiated after completing feasibility reports on technical grounds, not political,” he said.
Leader of Awami Muslim League Sheikh Rashid Ahmed declared water a national issue and said it was need of the hour to address it. Abdul Rashid Godel of MQM 10,000 to 12,000 megawatt electricity could be produced by constructing small dams in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa only, apart from other resources like coal, wind and solar.
Sardar Awais Leghari of PML-N said it was a history of all civilizations that water always remained their strength, but unfortunately there was no realization for its conservation.
He underlined the need for promoting the culture of rain-harvesting across the country and devising an effective plan to stop wasting even a single drop of water.
He said importance of water was higher than energy, saying that there was no alternative for water. Leader of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Mehmood Khan Achakzai said 50,000 MW electricity could be produced from the river Swat, and added 110 million acre feet water, passing under the Khairabad bridge, went waste every year.
Ubaidullah Shadikhel of PML-N said he lived the area where water fell from mountains at approximately 1,050 feet height and always played havoc in the form of flash-floods, urging political parties to avoid making KBD controversial.
Nawab Yusuf Talpur, Dr Arif Alvi, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Sahibzada Tariqullah and Moeen Watto also spoke on the issue and highlighted importance of water conservation and building new water reservoirs besides improved system of water management.