‘Water issue may trigger conflict’ Expert calls for revising Indus Basin Treaty
LAHORE, Jan 9: The Indus Basin Treaty between Pakistan and India needs to be revisited in the light of the United Nations’ General Assembly Resolution 64/292, which in 2010 declared water and sanitation a human right.
United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), Canada, Director Dr Zafar Adeel stated this in an interaction with media persons at the opening session of the first international conference on ‘Water resources governance in the Indus basin’ at the Government College University on Wednesday.
Dr Adeel said there were a lot of gaps in the Indus Basin Treaty as it was silent on the quality of water and power generation issues.
Moreover, he said, “The waters of the Indus Basin originate in Chinese Tibet and is also shared by Afghanistan. So both China and Afghanistan be also made part of the treaty.”
Dr Douglas Hill from University of Otago, New Zealand, said there was a dire need to look beyond the functioning of Indus Basin Commission and examined a range of ways in which a more just and equitable distribution of South Asia’s water resources could occur in future.
He also lamented that water-sharing negotiations were conspicuously absent from discussions at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).
Presiding over the opening session, Government College University Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Khaleequr Rahman said impending water scarcity and uncertainty due to climate change in the Indus Basin, coupled with a bourgeoning population, had posed major challenges to Pakistan that inhabit the Basin and growing risks for increased tensions and conflicts.
In the past, he said, lack of political participation of all stakeholders in the establishment of the social, political and economic structures had hindered integrated approaches towards regional water governance.
Presenting keynote address, Dr Danish Mustafa, an eminent geologist from the Kings College London, UK, warned mistrust on water issue could lead to major conflict between Pakistan and India.
He said the biggest issue of water security in Indus Basin was that India had never provided accurate water figures to Pakistan or to any international body. He, however, said Pakistan critically needed to preserve rainwater in the three western rivers – the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab in the monsoon season.
He said there was highest level of silt concentration in Indus waters in the world and there was a dire need for indigenous study on construction of dams in Pakistan.
Presenting a paper on “Professional engineers and water lords”, North Carolina State University, USA, Prof David Gilmartin said in Pakistan local water system was controlled by the landlords whom he dubbed “water lords”.
GCU political science department chairman Dr Khalid Manzoor Butt also spoke on the occasion.
Later, a panel discussion on “Will water induce conflict or cooperation? was held at the second technical session of the conference.
As many as 17 foreign experts from eight countries, including the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and Sri Lanka, are participating in the seven technical sessions of the conference.