ISLAMABAD: Leading experts on water resources are of the view that there is not sufficient awareness among the policy-makers of the impending water crisis in Pakistan, which is posing a threat to the country’s security, stability and environmental sustainability.
Former chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Shamsul Mulk highlighted water security issues discussed in a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, ‘Development Advocate Pakistan’.
Pakistan’s water policy does not exist and key policy-makers act like ‘absentee landlords’ of water in Pakistan, he said. “Because of this absentee landlordism, water has become the property of the landlords and the poor are deprived of their share’’.
A draft report on water resources was framed at the expressed request of the ministry of water and power. Mr Mulk said it was unfortunate that the federal cabinet never allocated the time for its review and approval.
“The worst example of landlordism is in Sindh. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Pushtoon society is a lot more egalitarian. In general, landlords don’t want the poor to become economically self-sufficient to remain in power. So, this water issue is very political in nature,” he said.
Mr Mulk pointed out the extreme variability of river flows season-wise— 84 per cent of flows in summer and only 16pc in winter—as a major problem.
According to the report, with a Kharif to Rabi ratio of two to one, the seasonal needs were about 66pc in summer and 34pc in winter, showing surpluses of 18pc in summer and shortages of 18pc in winter.
The surpluses of summer create floods, inflicting major damages to the infrastructure in the Indus plains and shortages in water disable Rabi crops from its optional yields. Owing to the lack of a strong government, this disability continues to hurt Pakistan and its economy, said Mr Mulk.
According to Director General of Federal Water Management Cell of the ministry of national food security and research, Muhammad Tahir Anwar, 18 million acre feet (MAF) of rainwater or hill torrent potential have not been realised in the overall policy framework.
It is imperative that a comprehensive policy framework inclusive of river basin, groundwater and rainwater and hill torrents be developed and adopted to ensure sustainable use of scarce water resources, he said.
According to all indicators, Pakistan was rapidly becoming a water-scarce country, said Chairman of Pakistan Council of Research in water resources, Dr Mohammad Ashraf. However, there is little awareness of this looming disaster amongst stakeholders, particularly policy-makers and they cannot foresee the real picture of its repercussions on social and economic fronts, he added.
He said that the draft ‘National Water Policy’ should be approved which provides policy guidelines for sustainable management of water resources, adding that provinces should develop their own strategies within the framework of the national water policy.
The growth in renewable energy is fuelling new jobs in Asia and Africa. Meet three beneficiaries of the new green economy from Zambia, Pakistan and Kenya.
While the price of oil is plummeting, taking with it a significant number of jobs, the renewable energy job market is booming. It is estimated that it will grow to 24m jobs worldwide by 2030 – up from 9.2m reported in 2014 – according to analysis by the International Renewable Energy Industry (Irena), which predicts that doubling the proportion of renewables in the global energy mix would increase GDP by up to $1.3tn across the world.
The rise and rise of the solar industry has been the largest driver of growth. In 2014, it accounted for more than 2.5m jobs, largely in operations, maintenance and manufacturing – now increasingly dominated by a jobs boom in Asia.
The industry is providing hope and income to workers – present and future – across the global south.
Sheila Mbilishi, ‘solar-preneur’, Zambia
Although employment in renewable energy is comparatively low across Africa, the sunny continent is where the need and potential for employment is perhaps greatest. A fast-growing economy and population is driving demand for energy, but two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to electricity.
Now the renewables revolution is witnessing the rise of a generation of African “solar-preneurs” who are creating small-scale businesses by taking solar energy – in the form of lights, radios and mobile-phone charging facilities – into local communities.
In western Zambia, Sheila Mbilishi is self-employed and sells solar lights to local residents and businesses. The 67-year-old widow and mother of six buys the lights for $5 from the social enterprise SunnyMoney – part of the UK based charity SolarAid – and sells them on with a 50% profit margin.
“They sell like cupcakes,” says Mbilishi. “There is life in the lights – people got interested in them.” They are popular with pupils who want to study after dark, businesses during electricity blackouts or as a replacement for toxic kerosene lamps in homes.
Since starting the business three years ago, it has provided Mbilishi with a significant source of income, helping her to open a shop and build a two-bedroom flat. “The difference is huge,” she says. “Selling lights has helped me a lot. I have built a house out of the lights. Owning personal ones has helped me too with the current load shedding – electricity is usually off and I am not affected by no light.”
Shehak Sattar, renewable energy student, Moscow
For Shehak Sattar, choosing to study renewable energy was more a social than a personal decision. “I want to practise something different from the mainstream. It is related to the concept of believing in humanity and our survival on earth,” he says.
The 27-year-old Pakistani student is now four months into a masters degree in the science and materials of solar energy at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow, funded by a scholarship. The course is in its first year and has mostly attracted international students – from Afghanistan and Iran to Nigeria and Namibia.
Before coming to Moscow, Sattar worked for NGOs and other agencies in Pakistan, installing and spreading the transmission of solar energy to remote communities and to slums in Islamabad and Lahore. Larger solar projects are now starting to come online in Pakistan, amid ambitions to construct the world’s largest solar farm.
“There has been a general electricity crisis in Pakistan. People are waiting for alternatives to rescue them from this suffering,” he says.
Once he has completed his course, Sattar wants to work at a university in Pakistan “to convert the attention of students to renewable energy sources” by lecturing and researching methods to make solar energy more efficient.
“We have to fight more,” he says. “We have to fight against the people who will be digging for petroleum in the coming 20 years because it will destroy our ecology’s balance.”
Mohamed Abdikadir, solar panel installer, Dadaab, Kenya
The promise of renewable energy in refugee camps could save humanitarian agencies hundreds of millions of dollars and provide job opportunities for thousands of young refugees.
Mohamed Abdikadir, 21, was born in the refugee camp complex at Dadaab in eastern Kenya, where the average family spends $17.20 per month – 24% of their income – on energy. The complex is home to more than 330,000 refugees.
Like most of his neighbours, Abdikadir’s family came to the camp after fleeing the civil war in Somalia more than two decades ago. Both his parents have since died, leaving Abdikadir to provide for his 10 younger siblings. He is now one of 5,000 young people trained to install solar panels as part of a programme in Kenya and Ethiopia organised by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which has recruited local teachers to deliver it.
“It was hard [to learn] at first but I tried my best and now it is easy,” says Abdikadir. After completing a six-month programme a year ago, he gets up at 5am every day to pray before preparing breakfast and collecting the tools for his job in Dadaab’s dry desert landscape. “There is a lot of sun here.Renewable energy is very good in this environment.”
Before he started the programme, Abdikadir earned money by selling water but he could only make enough to provide one meal a day for his family. Now, with the extra income from solar installations – $10 on an average day – his siblings are eating three meals daily, have new clothing and are able to attend a fee-paying school.
“I am the breadwinner of the family,” he says. “[The programme] has really helped me. Before I was idle. It helps with my daily bread, my daily income.”
Abdikadir now wants to expand his education to incorporate other forms of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the NRC recently announced plans to deliver a similar programme on a larger scale for Syrians at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.