Threat of Water Wars is Real, Says Climate Change Scientist

Dec 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Pakistan, Water

The News: In an interview with The News on Friday, Dr Qamar uz Zaman Chaudhry, senior adviser on Climate Change Programme and deputy regional director, Asia, LEAD Pakistan, identified threats to the country due to climate change and global warming.

He agreed that “water wars” were real, and said food security was directly linked to climate change.

Dr Chaudhry is in town as a resource person at a three-day Saarc workshop on “Climate Change Impacts on Coastal and Aquatic Resources”.

The workshop has been organised by the Saarc Coastal Zone Management Centre, Male, Maldives, in collaboration with the Climate Change Division, Pakistan.

Excerpts follow:

Q: In a statement to the press, Ismail Seageldin, vice president of the World Bank, said in August 1995: ‘Many of the wars of this century were about oil, but wars of next century will be over water.” Do you agree?

A: I fully agree that future wars will be on water because of water stress created by climate change stresses.

This war and confrontation will not only be between countries but also between provinces, different users because there will be competing demands between different stake holders/partners.

Q: How can these wars be avoided?

A: First of all, we need to assess the climate change threats and then particular impacts on water resources. We need to prepare our water development systems and need to plan rational use of available water resources. Pakistan being an agricultural country, the major user of available freshwater is agricultural sector, using 80 percent of water. Present irrigation practices results in wastage of more than 30 percent of this share of water. The foremost action should be to reduce these wastages in agriculture.

Q: Given the fact that more than 30 percent of irrigation water goes waste in Pakistan. Do you recommend the lining of canals?

A: Actually the lining of canals is quite a complex issue because seepages in some cases contributes to the ground water recharge and stored ground water is contributing a large portion of freshwater available to different users in Pakistan. One should opt for canals’ lining only in areas where groundwater is saline.

Q: What are major climate change threats to Pakistan?

A: Monsoon rain will become erratic. It will increase frequency and intensity of extreme weather events which include floods, droughts and storms. Furthermore, projected melting of KKH glaciers due to global warming which are providing 70-80 percent of water for the Indus River System is yet another threat. These climate change vulnerabilities can threaten Pakistan’s water security, energy security and food security which may lead to the destabilisation of our national security.

Q: To what extent is our food security related to climate change and global warming? Don’t you think we should very urgently opt for alternate crops?

A: I agree! And the National Climate Change policy, a document prepared by the Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan, has adequately referred to the relationship between climate change and global warming and the vital issue of Pakistan’s food insecurity.

Q: Don’t you agree that Pakistan has great potential of alternate energy but the vested interest is not allowing it to tap this great treasure?

A: The meteorological department collected wind data. We established the wind measuring mast along the coastal belts of Sindh and Balochistan and after analysing this data my report was published in 2005 that was based on this data. It identified an economically viable wind corridor along the Gharo-Sindh coast of approximately 10,000 sq km with a potential of 44,000 megawatts and exploitable potential of 11,000 megawatts, taking into consideration land constraints in this area. After the publication of this report, a large number of foreign investors approached the Sindh government for acquiring land for the establishment of wind farms in this wind corridor. The government of Sindh took two to three years in devising land lease policies and ultimately most of the land in this area was given to parties which were not investors but middlemen. It’s true that now few wind power projects are underway and hopefully will break the ice in this sector.



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