QUETTA: IUCN Pakistan and Taraqee Foundation in partnership with the US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Water, MUET, Jamshoro (with support from University of Utah, USA); and the Government of Balochistan organized a two-day Expert Consultation on Strengthening Research-Policy Interface Improving Water Management in Balochistan at Serena Hotel Quetta today.

The Governor of Balochistan, Mr. Muhammad Khan Achakzai was the Chief Guest on this occasion. The participants of the event hailed from the federal and provincial governments, donors, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and media.

In his keynote remarks in the opening remarks Mr. Muhammad Khan Achakzai, Governor of Balochistan said that the scarce water resources of the Province were relentlessly exploited beyond their renewal potential causing an alarming rate of depletion of water table in many natural aquifers.

Floodwater is the only potential resource which can be exploited by diverting water to lands for conserving in the soil or by constructing dams to create storage reservoirs.

Construction of delay action dams and check dams on small streams and gorges may help both in increasing the groundwater recharge and reduce the occurrence and the intensity of the flash floods. It is important that such activities need to be complemented with appropriate watershed management efforts.

In his welcome remarks, Mr. Amjad Rashid, Chairperson, IUCN Pakistan Members Committee stated that our foreseeable future looks challenging mainly in terms of water. He further said that the environmentalists have been warning us about the severe scarcity of water, droughts and floods in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan. There is also a risk of mass-migration from Quetta city if the government fails to build or delay the construction of dams or does not monitor dams to maintain the depleting water table. Experts believe that water table in Quetta is being depleted at a rate of 10 to 12 feet per annum.

In his remarks, Mr. Sher Yar Taj, Secretary, Planning and Development Department, Government of Balochistan said that we are facing a very horrific situation which has caused our vegetation to be wiped out due to endless droughts.

He further said that to cope with the water crisis we need to have a long time strategy and best practices in place. He strongly believed that the expert-consultation sessions produce the best recommendations in the light of the geography and typography of the province. The gap between supply and demand is widening with the passage of time, this situation is undermining the potential for economic growth and social development in the province.

In his remarks, Syed Abu Akif, Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Balochistan observed that Climate Change and associated water issues have serious implications for the future in Pakistan. Rapid population growth, especially in the urban areas, decreasing surface and ground water availability will impact every aspect of life in the coming decades as weather patterns become more unpredictable and both floods and droughts become more common and with greater impacts. In the absence of a clear understanding of vulnerability in the water can be disastrous for the future of not just Quetta and Balochistan but also of Pakistan in the fields of agriculture, energy, forestry, and disaster planning.

Fortunately, UNDP has started Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping of Water Resources of Pakistan was initiated in July 2015. This process as well as initiatives like the present one will assist the federal and provincial governments to improve decision-making capacity within government ministries, research institutes, and the general public in relation to water resources management in a changing climate.

In this remarks Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan said that Balochistan is a natural resource-rich province, and home to so many species of plants and animals. Most of the rural population is dependent on natural resource such as Water, Rangeland, Forest and minerals. Therefore, environmental sustainability and management of natural resources such as water is an area we must seriously look into.

Capacity building and awareness-raising on natural resource management and sustainable development focusing on water is the need of the hour. Lack of focus on natural resource management is also leading to poverty. Adaptive agriculture through the use of modern technology, ecologically accepted and tested models with adjusted cropping patterns could reduce poverty across the province. Green growth, value-addition and value chain approaches could not only reduce the pressure on natural resources but could potentially also open up new livelihood opportunities for the people.

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