At a Conference Codeblue: “Exploring Indigenous Solutions for the Water Crisis”, former Supreme Court Justice Wajihuddin, called for legislation on regulating treatment and recycling of water in all high-rise buildings for separating gray water and black water. He also called for defining and regulating policies for the dumping of toxic waste in streams and city sewers and for imposing strict penalties for dumping of untreated raw sewage into the seas.
These were among measures proposed by leading water experts, policymakers, and concerned citizens to deliberate on finding solutions for the impending water crisis at a full day conference held on 9th March at the Habib University, and sponsored jointly by the Concerned Citizens for Change, Data Communication & Control (Pvt) Ltd. and the Dhanani School of and Science & Engineering, Habib University.
Speakers deliberated that up to 60% of Karachi’s water distribution was unmonitored and uncontrolled. Pipeline losses and theft has resulted in widespread plying of water tankers which are an inefficient and costly mode for water transportation. The solution requires strengthening of the distribution network by replacing old corroding pipes and joints, incorporation of electronic metering and the application of wireless technology for tracking flow distribution through water channels and tankers.
Panelists included former Mayor Dr. Farooq Sattar, Senator Taj Haider, politicians and representatives of relevant government organizations including Naeem Arif GM Projects of WAPDA, Asadullah Khan Managing Director of KWSB, Farzana Abbasi from Sindh Irrigation & Drainage Authority and Dr. Rahim Soomro Secretary Forest & Wildlife Dept. The acute water shortfall in Karachi and delayed implementation of schemes for provision of additional water planned for the City were intensely discussed and skillfully moderated by Adnan Asdar CEO Multinet.
Participants called for the recommendations of the Govt’s. Water Commission Report that was released in June ‘18 to be implemented in letter and spirit. More than 90% of water usage is for agriculture. Flood Irrigation has been identified as most inefficient and a grave need exists for the use of smart agriculture including crop selection, various controlled water irrigation techniques such as hydroponics, sprinkler, drip, tape irrigation.
The Conference also highlighted the importance of having Parliamentary sub-committees and task forces both at the National and Provincial level that will draft national policies that are in tune with the potential of available technology.
From the private sector, Dr. Erum Sattar, who has a doctorate in Law from Harvard University and is visiting professor from the USA and Singapore outlined her scholarly dissertation on “Management and Regulation of Indus Waters”. Dr Shaukat Hameed, who is a former Member Planning Commission and Chairman of COMSTEC, highlighted the benefits of various technologies such as Laser levelling of land, use of radio isotope tracers for water mapping etc. He stressed the need for efficient cultivation and pointed out that sugarcane, rice, and cotton crop are extremely water intensive and are best suited for water abundant geographic regions.
Rafay Ahmed, CEO of HydroCon Engineers & Professionals (Pvt) Ltd. stressed the critical need for replenishment of water aquifers especially in Baluchistan and Sindh and called for the extensive use of modern technologies, smart agriculture and the need for mapping of water distribution. He also highlighted the problem of aging infrastructure of the water distribution system in Karachi. Saud Hashimi, Projects Lead – Big Data & Analytics PwC Pakistan, recalling the experience of other water-deficient countries including Israel, UAE and India, emphasized the importance of having micro level data with electronic sensors and of integrated water management techniques.
The Conference also featured breakout sessions for ‘Water Infrastructure & Technology”, “Urban Water Management and Distribution”, “Waste Water Management’, and “Creating Awareness on Conservation”. These specialist sessions were interactive with enthusiastic participation of delegates and students, and were conducted by citizen activists Naeem Sadiq, Hameed Dagia, Afia Salam, Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, Urban Planner Farhan Anwar, Daniya Khalid from Hisaar Foundation and the principal engineers of private sector companies, Sohail Ahmad of DCC, Sophia Hasnain of Linked things, and Suhail Hussain of Gresham.
In his futuristic remarks, the Convener, Samir Hoodbhoy stated that he visualized that within the forthcoming decades, the deserts of Baluchistan and Tharparkar would become the next frontiers of Pakistan, as innovations and breakthroughs in desalination technologies (such as graphene membrane) and saline agriculture would help realize the natural assets that have been bestowed on Pakistan notably a 1100 km coastline providing abundant sea water, high solar incidence and major wind corridors for supplementing energy requirement for desalination, and the vast unexploited land of the coastal- contiguous desert.
This Conference surely established the potential of Concerned Citizens, working with experts and the youth, in a progressive University setting, to engage in tackling the multifarious civic problems confronting Pakistan.
Conference proceedings can be found on www.codeblueconf.com