IBA and KUL organize a panel discussion on Pakistan's Water Scarcity in the 21st century
November 23, 2018: The Karachi Urban Lab (KUL) at the IBA, organized a critical dialogue on Pakistan's water scarcity. The panel for Dialogue on Pakistan's Water Scarcity in the 21st Century comprised of Dr. Hassan Abbas, a hydrologist with the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South; Ms. Sanaa Baxamoosa, an environmental practitioner with the Hisaar Foundation; Dr. Noman Ahmed, an urban planner with the NED university; Mr. Faisal Hassan, an award winning agriculturalist from Punjab; and Ms. Afia Salam, journalist and geographer. The panel discussion and engagement with the audience, focused on the complex dynamics that have shaped Pakistan's current state of water scarcity as it scales from the national to the urban levels. The discussion probed how and why Pakistan has gotten to this stage, what kinds of policies and pragmatic solutions are viable for surmounting the challenge, and what should be a collective 'water vision' as we go forward. The event was attended by students, faculty, members of the public, and media representatives.
Dr. Nausheen Anwar, Director KUL, commenced the event by familiarizing the audience with the purpose of KUL – to encourage critical thinking on urban issues with water providing a way to initiate a productive dialogue.
Dr. Abbas talked about the historical engineering of the Indus River Basin, and its significance to water supply, distribution and management in Pakistan and the current state of erosion. He emphasized that there is no water shortage in Pakistan but extensive mismanagement of water as a resource. "Building dams is not the answer; Pakistan's current policy on managing water does not rely on any clear-cut knowledge base that takes into consideration the relationship between science, technology, cultures, nature and history. Moreover, Pakistan's economic model is flawed. We must start a new thinking process especially for lower riparian regions."
Mr. Hassan underscored that one of the most significant reasons for Pakistan's water scarcity is due to the mismanagement of water in Pakistan's crop production –specifically irrigation methods and farming practices such as mono-cropping that rely on unnecessarily large quantities of water. "Water usage in agricultural farming should rely on common sense, not corporate sense. We are exporting crops that are water guzzlers like rice, sugar cane and maize and these are soil degrading crops. Due to the current farming methods and reliance on fertilizers and pesticides, the soil is no longer healthy; it is a like a patient in intensive care. The organic matter in Pakistan's soil is very low."
Ms. Baxamoosa pointed out the importance of bringing into national policy dialogue the role of gender and especially women's role in the management of water. She emphasized, "Pakistan's National Water Policy mentions women only once. And that too only in the sense that women should be encouraged to conserve water. We must understand women make up 48% of Pakistan's population and water is considered women's work as it lies in the domestic sphere. Women are not seen as decision-makers in water management issues." She went on to emphasize the work the Hisaar Foundation is doing on women and water in Pakistan. She talked about the establishment of women's water networks and citizen- government collaborative initiatives. She noted the women's water-networks have been an effective tool in water management efforts at the micro scale.
Dr. Ahmed discussed some of the issues that have triggered Karachi's water supply challenges. In reference to innovative solutions such as building urban streams using real estate to surmount the challenges, he noted, "Low-density, low-rise developments are changing the morphology of cities like Karachi. We need to think about innovative solutions in relation to such morphological changes and even the vulnerability of ecological zones, such as Bundal Island and Guddu Island where real estate development will not enable a straightforward solution."
Ms. Salaam moderated the event with her extensive knowledge about Pakistan's water management issues.