Cooperation Key To Finding Solutions For Pakistan’s Water Woes

Bringing together experts on the water crisis in Pakistan, Tabadlab hosted a panel discussion the pressing issue on World Water Day.

“The geographical location of Pakistan makes it imperative to move towards solutions. That will not come unless there is a will to cooperate, at all levels”, said Afia Salam, Climate Change Specialist, at the ‘Water: Conflict and Cooperation’ conference organised on World Water Day by Tabadlab held at Serena Hotel on Friday. The event was aimed to assess drivers of water conflict, identify potential flashpoints, best practices, and local capacities to mitigate them. 

In attendance were experts from the fields of climate change adaptation, water resource management, and water governance. 

Speaking at the event, keynote speaker Jo Moir, Development Director for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office highlighted the need for collaboration amongst different stakeholders and the right kind of investment to get ahead of climate challenges.

She added or she said: “We civil servants have a tendency to admire the problem and study it extensively, but the goal should be to find future-orientated solutions.” 

The event was divided into two sessions. In the first session, the Tabadlab team presented specific case studies highlighting water conflicts across Pakistan. The second session, which was moderated by Zeeshan Salahuddin, Director Centre for Regional and Global Connectivity Tabadlab, was a panel discussion on trends and trajectories in water conflict for the future. The panel covered the need to have robust and reliable data as a starting point for integrated water resource management; developing consensus around key definitions and a common vernacular; building trust between citizens and the state to address water conflicts communally and individually; and developing scalable, community-level solutions.

Afia Salam stressed the need to talk about population in the context of resource management, especially water. Rapid population growth is causing our social fabric to unravel, and it is imperative to remember that as population grows, Pakistan will continue to face a deterioration of all natural resources. She added that we need to remember the impact the demands of a growing population have on our ecosystem. 

Dr Fazilda Nabeel, Climate Change and Water Governance Specialist, Food and Agricultural Organisation, said that we need to talk about water from an equity and justice perspective. Water is a fundamental right for all humans, and yet there are parts of Pakistan that are much more water-stressed than others. Access to water needs to be made equitable for all citizens to mitigate the potential for water-based conflicts.    

Speaking about the need for building consensus around the drivers of water related conflict, The World Bank’s Water Resource Specialist Basharat Saeed said we need a robust data regime around water with verifiable, and reliable data; which should be publicly available. He also highlighted the need to build trust between the state and citizens around the provision of basic services. Salam seconded this, saying that cooperation can only be built around reliable data.

As Pakistan looks to mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt to the demands of a growing population, collaborative forums like this conference are key to developing a cohesive understanding of critical issues, and how to develop polices to address them. Key insights from the event will be presented to policymakers and decision makers in the coming weeks.