By: Faizan Afzaal
The recent policy of Trump administration of pulling the United States (US) out of Paris accord is the perfect example of how much we are concerned with the well-being of our planet. As our world is facing a momentous issue of global warming and water scarcity, our focus from the issue is diverting to other less important, rather political concerns. Environmental politics, especially related to water, is an increasing concern of the modern world. World Economic Forum has also identified water crisis as the highest impact risk facing the world.
The plot of 2008 James Bond blockbuster ‘Quantum of Solace’ showed a similar situation, where a criminal syndicate aimed on global domination plans to seize control of water supply of Bolivia. While the plot of the movie was not a real life case, however it do raise certain questions regarding water security in the world. The Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) estimates that by the end of year 2050 the demand of water in the world will grow by 55 percent. It is well understood that with rise in global water demand, domestic demand of water will also rise in Pakistan.
According to reports, Pakistanis use ten time more water than global average. This is an alarming fact for us. Pakistan is already a water stressed country, where per cubic meters per capita water availability has dropped from 5,000 cubic meters to 1,038 cubic meters in last 40 years. Many believe that this over consumption of water is a result of absence of price and water market in Pakistan. Resultantly, the water supply agency remains poor and have no funds for infrastructure maintenance. Absence of water market is eroding the product.
Government seems to be least interested in the issue, though federal budget 2017 has identified 33 water development schemes all over the country, from which 24 have been embarked for Baluchistan, however past record of the government and state of corruption and politics in the country has made the fate of these projects dubious. Getting in to the details of these development schemes in Baluchistan, one would know that most of the budget is dedicated to construction of dams like Burj Aziz and Badinzai dam. Literally no attention has been paid to tap and manage the underground water resources and distribution system.
Aqua experts believe that management of water resources and there proper distribution, especially in the rural and remote areas, can be best done through public-private partnership. A school of thought in governance and public policy advocates that the well-being and well fare of the people should be outsourced to private sector, and government should only limit itself to regulation. This idea seems perfectly workable when we see BRAC Pakistan’s Programme for Poverty Reduction (PPR) in Baluchistan. It is a multi-facet program, yielding tremendous results in poverty reduction, social development and infrastructure building. With the funding from PPAF, BRAC Pakistan has completed twenty five drinking water schemes in Lasbeela district of Baluchistan. The total population coverage of the project is of 15,885 individuals. The results of these water schemes are astonishing as 2,325 households now have direct access to clean drinking water in Lasbeela, which lowers the rate of Diarrhea and other water borne diseases by 35 percent.
While talking to BRAC Pakistan Project Manager in Lasbeela, Saif Ullah Mengal, he underlined the significance of the project and risks associated to it. “The foundation of the project is strong, which is taking up the whole project to ultimate success level. Village Organizations and involvement of local community in the management processes of piped water supply makes the project running”, he said. He further told me about the regular meetings of village council. Motivation and awareness were also disseminated through meetings to ensure that the water management committees are functioning well.
Changing the conditions for water management and distribution in Pakistan is not only about taking new steps forward. It is also about sustaining the gains and ensuring that things do not slip back. Investments in infrastructure, institutions and ways of thinking and behaving must be protected and enhanced. To bring a positive change in lives of the people, BRAC Pakistan is committed to extend all its support to the people, however without adequate institutional support from government the fate of development is bleak. To face the challenges posed by global water crisis, I believe, development cooperation is inevitable; small measures in form of institutional alternatives and partnership networks can minimize the risk of water crisis.
Faizan Afzal is a freelance journalist and a development professional. Tweet him at @Faizan_Afzal1