Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pakistan urged to focus on water crisis, not India

Pakistan urged to focus on water crisis, not India

WASHINGTON, Dec 13: The international community must embark on back-channel diplomacy to bring Pakistan and India closer together and must assist cooperative projects to make water distribution more equitable, says a report on Pakistan’s water crisis.

In a new policy brief, Michael Kugelman of Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Centre also warns Pakistan to curb its obsession with India and accept responsibility for the water crisis which threatens to cripple agriculture, the mainstay of its economy.
“To be effective, international responses must target all affected parties and be sensitive to ground realities. They should also be mindful of indigenous success stories and the factors that bring about that success,” says the report.

The policy paper notes that Pakistan faces a multidimensional water crisis that claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year. The root causes of the crisis are twofold:
— Circumstantial, which are linked to poor water resource management policies, including water-wasting flood irrigation;

— Structural, tied to factors deeply ingrained in politics and society such as the obsession with India, inequitable rural land-ownership and endemic water miss-governance. This includes exploitation of the rotational irrigation system to the detriment of the poor.

To resolve the crisis, both types of causes will need to be tackled, and the international community can play an invaluable role.
However, international responses must be measured. They should actively target the circumstantial causes but, at the same time, recognise that their ability to take on the structural ones is limited.
The policy brief points out that at its core, Pakistan’s water crisis is a consequence of political and social factors that have stunted the country’s development for decades. “One of these is Pakistan’s obsession with, and mistrust of, India.”
It notes that the military often blames India for stealing Pakistan’s water, “in effect absolving Pakistan from responsibility for dealing with a water crisis that is largely internally driven.”

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