Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
As the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through this north Kashmir valley, Indian labourers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world’s most militarised borders into Pakistan.
The loud hum of excavators echoes through the pine-covered valley, clearing masses of soil and boulders.
The 330-MW dam shows India’s growing focus on hydropower but also highlights how water is a growing source of tension with downstream Pakistan, which depends on the snow-fed Himalayan rivers for everything from drinking water to agriculture.
Islamabad has complained to an international court that the dam in the Gurez valley, one of dozens planned by India, will affect river flows and is illegal. The court has halted any permanent work on the river for the moment, although India can still continue tunneling and other associated projects.
from The Great Debate UK:
Muhammad Atiq Ur Rehman Tariq is a Ph.D. student at Delft University of Technology and Dr Nick van de Giesen is Professor of Water Resources Management at Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are their own.
According to official reports of the Federal Flood Commission of Pakistan, at least 1,556 people have died and more than 568,000 homes have been badly damaged or totally destroyed as a result of the recent floods in Pakistan. Almost 6.5 million people have been affected by this flooding and 3650 sq km of Pakistan's most fertile crop land have been destroyed.
Outside President Asif Ali Zardari’s political rally in Birmingham last weekend, I chatted to a middle-aged woman passing by about the floods in Pakistan. “I have every sympathy for Pakistan and the Pakistanis, but he is not helping them much, is he?” she said. Another woman asked me to explain why it was that the protesters were not focused on the floods but demonstrating “about all sorts”. Inside the rally, a young British Pakistani who had recently returned from a visit to his family home in Kashmir complained about negative stereotyping in the media of Pakistan that had reduced a country of some 170 million people to “a terrorist threat”.
If there is a common thread to the relatively slow western response to one of the worst catastrophes in Pakistan’s history, it is a sense of confusion, not about whether to help, but how to help. That, and the dehumanising impact of stereotypes - corrupt politicians, angry bearded protesters, suicide bombers to name but a few – that obscure the impact of the floods on the very real people – 14 million of them - affected by the disaster.
It was so long in the making, so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.
When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir. The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier – the world’s longest glacier – had receded.
Pakistan is running out of water so fast that the shortage will strangulate all water-based economic activity by 2015, a Pakistani thinktank says. And that pretty much covers 70 percent of the population who are involved in farming.
This is not a new warning. In recent months, as this blog itself has noted, experts have painted an increasingly bleak scenario of Pakistan’s rivers drying up, the ground water polluted and over-exploited and the whole water infrastructure in a shambles.