Posts Tagged ‘Water’

The Bright Spots Amid the Gray

REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Pakistan hasn’t had a lot to be positive about lately. Last summer, millions were displaced from their homes due to military operations against the Pakistani Taliban in northwest Pakistan. This year, about 12 million are affected by the flood disaster, with authorities estimating that reconstruction will take up to three years after the rains subside. Beyond all of that Pakistan has a volatile political situation, a continuing militant threat, and a weak economy. Last week, two brothers were brutally murdered by a mob in Sialkot as police officers looked on, a horrific atrocity that sparked anguish and outrage among Pakistanis, [Rabayl has a brilliant piece on the incident here].

So much of this makes me sad, infuriated, and sick to my stomach. But yesterday, while reading through various articles on the floods and disaster relief, I realized that we so often get engulfed by the negativity, by the tragedy of our circumstances, that we sometimes miss the bright spots amid the gray. The floods in Pakistan are the worst disaster any of us have lived through. But it is also within this tragedy that we have seen real heroes that demonstrate what citizen action truly mean.

In Karachi, fellow bloggers Faisal Kapadia and Awab Alvi, both part of the 4×4 Offroaders Club, have been using their “off-roading skills to deliver life-saving supplies to flood victims across nearly impassible terrain and waters,” noted CNN. They have distributed 100 tents and about eight truckloads of food to affected families in Sindh. Awab told CNN, “We could have stayed home and watched this happen on TV. But someone has to take the next step.”

Future Leaders of Pakistan, an organization of young Pakistanis, has also been coordinating flood relief for those affected by the disaster. Last week, Sana Saleem wrote about their trip to Thatta, Sujjawal and Sharif Solangi in Sindh, providing relief to over 500 families. Over at her blog, Sana provided a guide to others planning to provide relief on the ground, including ways to manage and coordinate aid with large crowds, see here.

Faisal Chohan, a senior TED fellow and founder BrightSpyre & Cogilent Solutions, recently set up PakReport.org, an initiative that allows citizens to text observations and report incidents about the disaster to create a dynamic and comprehensive crowdmap about the flood situation on the ground. One of the team members told the Express Tribune, “What happens is that people send in reports via text, email or web, indicating a need. The map then plots the need and also notifies NGOS and relief agencies working in the area. If they have resources, they can help.” The online initiative employs Ushahidi software in order to visually categorize the needs on the ground.

Other social entrepreneurs, such as the Kashf Foundation, are also involved in disaster relief. Naya Jeevan, a social enterprise that provides quality health insurance to the urban poor [see here for CHUP’s interview with Asher Hasan], has partnered with two credible NGOs – Shine Humanity and UM Trust – to provide health care to families in the hardest-hit areas. Naya Jeevan is also distributing Ramadan calendars to raise money to provide health insurance to people in the flood-affected districts.

Overseas, the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which includes 13 UK humanitarian agencies, has raised £40 million from the British public for flood relief efforts in Pakistan. According to the website, “The Disasters Emergency Committee said it had never seen such an extraordinary pattern of giving for any appeal in its 45 year history. Donations usually spike sharply in the first week after the appeals are broadcast and then drop significantly in the second and particularly the third weeks.” DEC Chief Executive Brendan Gormley said,

This belies all talk of donor fatigue. Growing awareness of the sheer scale of the disaster has seen the public continue to respond to the needs of people who are in dire need of help. Their generosity has been astounding.

In the U.S., where “donor fatigue” has become the chief buzz word of late, donations are nowhere near the scale we saw following the Haiti earthquake earlier this year. But, via Relief4Pakistan, the campaign we launched two weeks ago, we’ve seen numerous Americans – not just Pakistani-Americans – step forward, being a part of an effort that has raised $81,000 as of today for Mercy Corps’ first response relief efforts on the ground, [see this past post for more on the campaign]. I’ve also read and heard of numerous efforts occurring throughout the country, all in a push to mobilize support for Pakistan. The Acumen Fund, for example, recently launched “On the Ground in Pakistan,” an initiative that allows users to add their observations and appeals to their “tapestry” online. Today, the Gates Foundation also donated $700,000 for those affected by the floods.

I was lucky enough to be part of Riz Khan‘s show on Al Jazeera on Wednesday, where Mosharraf Zaidi, Sir John Holmes, and I discussed the issue of “donor fatigue,” [see below]. My heart breaks on a regular basis for Pakistan. At the same time though, I am so inspired by the amount of people I have seen take action amid this tragedy. Their tireless work and commitment to this country should continue to inspire us all.

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Photo by Ali Khurshid

If you follow the international news (or at least read this blog somewhat regularly), then you are well aware of the increasingly dire situation in Pakistan. Over 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by weeks of flooding, as the rains continue to displace families from their homes, fan dangers of cholera outbreaks, and destroy livelihoods. Pakistan’s senior meteorologist Arif Mahmood told reporters that floodwaters “won’t fully recede until the end of the month, and existing river torrents were still heading to major cities such as Hyderabad and Sukkur in the south.”

Mahmood’s prediction essentially means that the floods will continue for two more weeks, making it difficult to quell the damage of this disaster and for relief agencies to provide adequate responses on the ground. As we all encourage others to dig into their pockets and help the millions in need (Relief4Pakistan, the campaign we launched last week, has so far raised over $30,000), we also need to remain cognizant of the realities that can hinder this relief. Here are some:

  1. The continuation of the rain, even if it’s less heavy this week, makes it difficult for relief teams to reach the people in need. Last Friday, I attended a USAID discussion on the situation in Pakistan, where the speaker noted that there are now 15 American military helicopters in Pakistan. The State Department website notes, “U.S. helicopters have evacuated 5,912 people and delivered 717,713 pounds of relief supplies.” However, noted the USAID official last week, helicopters can’t exactly fly when it’s raining. So relief teams have to rely on four-wheel drives, trucks and even donkeys, often delaying delivery time.
  2. The floods have devastated infrastructure, further complicating the delivery of aid. Countless numbers of bridges and roads have been destroyed, washed away, or blocked by landslides. If bridges aren’t repaired more quickly, than aid and food will fail to reach the hundreds of families cut off from relief. (Again, if it wasn’t raining, helicopters could be instrumental in food drops, but their efforts are hampered by the continuing rains).
  3. Because the floods are not over, we still don’t know the full extent of the devastation. Remember when news agencies said over 14 million had been affected by the floods, “more than the 2004 tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined”? Yeah. That was last week. This week, the number is over 20 million. And as the rains continue, more land will be submerged by water, more families will become displaced, and the overall impact will be larger.
  4. Pledged aid does not translate to aid delivered. The United Nations today announced that international aid is arriving too slowly, while some organizations are running out of resources. According to Al Jazeera, “The World Food Programme has warned that it needs more money to support Pakistan’s food supplies, which are “under significant pressure.'” So two issues here – first, not enough aid. Second, the aid that has been pledged by governments can take weeks of lead time to trickle into the system. Daniel Toole, the South Asia regional director for Unicef, told Al Jazeera, “We cannot spend pledges. We cannot buy purification tablets, we cannot support Pakistan with pledges.” Ted Itani, from the International Red Cross & Red Crescent, echoed, “I can only spend cash that is in my budget. Although donors have pledged millions of dollars it has to filter down into my account so I can order things before the onset of winter.”
  5. Again, pledges. They aren’t tangible. According to the BBC News’ Mark Doyle, the United Nations launched a “Flash Appeal” for $459 million to cover the first 90 days of the disaster. Nearly half of this appeal has been raised – $208 million – with a further $42 million pledged but not yet earmarked for specific projects. But, noted Doyle, “Rich “donor” countries often double count their contributions to make themselves look more generous to voters at home, or to curry political favor with particular parts of the world.”
  6. Relief agencies and the Pakistani government aren’t operating in all the affected areas. Much of the current emergency first response relief seems to be concentrated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (particularly Swat Valley) and Sindh provinces. However, very little aid has been delivered to Balochistan, which has also been impacted by the floods, mainly because international agencies can’t operate in those areas. According to ARY Television (via @mirza9), a Balochi official today said only the army are operating in the province. The NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority), provincial government and the federal government are completely missing on ground.
  7. Emergency first response relief aside, the public health and economic ramifications will be much more severe in the long-term. Dirty flood water and rain = lack of clean water. Lack of clean water = high risk of water-borne diseases like cholera, etc. Relief agencies on the ground, like Mercy Corps (the recipient of the Relief4Pakistan donations), are working to provide clean water, water filtration units, and hygiene kits to not only address the immediate need, but also to prevent future outbreaks of diseases. Mercy Corps, working in Swat and Sukkur (Sindh) is attempting to serve 10,000 people a day with a 20-person team on the ground. Moreover, noted TIME, “Last week, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said the floods had destroyed crops worth around $1 billion. By conservative Pakistani estimates, the figure is at least double that.”
  8. Finally, the millions affected by the floods aren’t just suffering, they’re pissed off. And justifiably so. News agencies today noted affectees’ anger at the government, which they say has not provided enough aid to the people who deserve it most. This was not helped by President Zardari‘s Europe visit or the fact that PM Yousaf Raza Gilani reportedly visited a fake relief camp on Wednesday, one that was allegedly erected “hours” before his arrival. Residents of the camp, which was also “wound up” after his departure, told Dawn that they had been “living out in the open, with no shelter.” Zardari recently acknowledged that the government response has so far been inadequate, noting, “Yes, the situation could have been better. Yes, the arrangements could have been made better. Yes, everything could have been better.

For those who want to continue to do more and fill in these gaps, you should continue to donate to vetted agencies working on the ground. I’ve provided a list here, and have plugged my own campaign, Relief4Pakistan in my last post. Donations can go a long way, further than pledges that can get caught in bureaucratic red tape. More importantly, you can raise awareness about the situation, particularly if you live overseas. If you live in Pakistan, you can and should take part in the PakRelief Crowdmap, which creates a dynamic map of the flood emergency and directs relief agencies to those area. This effort is vital in an environment where efforts are often duplicated, or for certain areas don’t receive enough attention. To submit your own observations to the Crowdmap, text about the disaster to 3441, beginning the message with “FL” for flood relief. See here for the website, and here for the Facebook page.

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The Relief4Pakistan Campaign

NYT: Flood Victims Near Multan

Today, news agencies report that Sindh province is currently bracing for a second round of heavy floods, and authorities warn “it could be as big as the first wave, which displaced millions and destroyed thousands of homes.” According to Al Jazeera English, “Authorities said waters have unexpectedly begun to rise at the Kotri barrage along the Indus river in southern Sindh, and now threaten to overrun the embankments around the barrage. Flooding at Kotri could potentially threaten the city of Hyderabad.”

So far, more than 1,600 have been confirmed dead since the flooding began in Pakistan two weeks ago, though this toll will rise as the disaster continues to spread and the threat of water-borne diseases like cholera rises. Villages have been swept away. Hundreds of families have been displaced from their homes, their livelihoods destroyed. Over 14 million people have been affected by these floods, more than the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.

Since the flooding began, I have laid awake at night, haunted by the images of the tragedy – families wading through what was once their homes, villages submerged under water, people frantically escaping to safe areas not already destroyed by the floods. This disaster is bigger than anything you or I have seen in recent years. But it is not productive to just lament about the loss and tragedy of this disaster. It is not enough to hang our heads or blame leaders for their lack of action. If we want to help the millions suffering, we have to actually do something to help.

As many of you know, I’m the director of Social Vision, the venture philanthropy arm of ML Resources. Social Vision provides seed funding and support for innovative initiatives and social entrepreneurs/enterprises in their earliest stages. Earlier this week, I received a call from my friend, Mahnaz Fancy, who was one of the founders of Pakistani Peace Builders, a new initiative of Pakistani-Americans and concerned global citizens, the group behind the recent Sufi Music Festival in New York City. Mahnaz shared many of my same frustrations about responses to the disaster, and offered the most time-sensitive solution – a grassroots donation campaign to benefit the millions impacted by the floods in Pakistan, a campaign that would appeal to both Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis.

We got to work immediately, designing a campaign that would leverage social media and grassroots giving to fund raise in the most efficient way possible. Therefore, rather than five people giving funds to five different (albeit all well-deserving) organizations, this campaign would enable those same five people to donate to one relief organization, an agency we had thoroughly vetted and were in close contact with. Therefore, the campaign aims to centralize donations in order to maximize impact of those funds.

This of course was a lot easier said than done, given the tremendous work of numerous relief agencies on the ground, both international and Pakistani. However, after much deliberation and due diligence, ML Social Vision and PPB chose Mercy Corps, a global aid agency, as the direct recipient of these donations. We made this decision based on Mercy Corps’ stellar reputation and credibility in the West and on the ground, its transparency, its ability to respond quickly to emergencies, and its previous work in Pakistan. Not only has the organization already launched its fundraising appeal, it also coordinates directly with local communities and organizations in Pakistan. Mercy Corps also doesn’t attempt to do too much, and instead concentrates on doing things well – it’s currently focusing on providing clean water, staple foods and clean-up tools for affected families mainly in Swat Valley and Sindh, two of the worst hit areas.

On Thursday, our campaign – Relief4Pakistan – went live, and we set our first fundraising goal at $100,000, with ML Social Vision providing the first $10,000 to jump start the campaign. Since then, we have managed to raise over $19,000, which is fantastic, but we still have a way to go before hitting our goal. So please, donate by clicking here. Every dollar (or foreign currency!) counts. The money will go directly towards Mercy Corps and will be earmarked for their flood efforts. You can also join our Facebook page, where you will receive updates on our progress,  news on the disaster, as well as updates we will post from Mercy Corps’ efforts on the ground. Given that tomorrow is Pakistan Day, there is nothing more patriotic you can do than donate or support the numerous families affected by the floods. If you decide to hold your own fundraiser, and are not sure where to donate the funds you receive, please feel free to contact us or donate it directly.

At a time of such tremendous tragedy, the best way to make a difference is to help. Thanks and Happy Pakistan Day!

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Turning Grief into Action

AP Image

The news from Pakistan has been heartbreaking.

We have been engulfed with images of flood affected citizens wading through what was once their homes, fires from the violence and targeted killings in Karachi, and smoke billowing from cars destroyed by a suicide bombing in Peshawar, an attack that killed the chief of Pakistan’s Frontier Constabulary.

And that was just the last few days.

According to news agencies, Pakistan has issued new flood warnings, “as heavy rains are expected to inflict more misery on areas where at least 1,500 people have already been killed and 980,000 more have lost their homes,” reported Al Jazeera English. According to Nadeem Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, about three million people were now affected by floods in the country – 1.5 million in the northwest and the same number in Punjab. While the disaster, labeled as “the worst flood in Pakistan since 1929,” had been focused in the country’s Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhuntkhwa provinces, media outlets reported that the flood began spreading to Punjab on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders), say the receding water is allowing more access to previously isolated areas, though the new flood warnings “could cause renewed problems.”

Spokesmen from the United Nations World Food Program have also told reporters that workers were “urgently trying to reach flood areas in the northwest cut off from food supplies.” Dawn quoted WFP’s Amjad Jamal noting,

You can imagine for five or six days floods have caused havoc in these areas. People have lost their food stocks. The markets are not up and running. Shops have collapsed. People are definitely in the greatest need of food. That’s what we fear. The need to rush to those areas which have been cut off for the past week to provide them with life-saving food.

The long-term impact of the floods on issues like health and livelihood are also significant. According to Dawn, authorities fear a breakout of water-borne diseases like cholera that could subsequently trigger a health crisis. And as the floods sweep away farm land and devastate livestock, farmers in the affected provinces stand to lose “millions of dollars,” noted Dawn. Moreover, the displacement of numerous Pakistani citizens caused by the disaster further compounds the country’s pre-existing Internally Displaced People (IDP) issue, [in March, I wrote that a million people remain displaced after the military’s operations against the Taliban last summer].

Given this enormous devastation, [as well as the wave of targeted killings in Karachi that have killed 47 people after the assassination of MQM’s Raza Haider], it is no bloody wonder that the country is pissed off at President Asif Ali Zardari, who is off on a jaunt around Europe while Pakistan is drowning. Regardless whether Zardari is needed to make decisions related to disaster relief or he is merely a figurehead, the decision to press forward with his tour comes across as callous and disconnected, and does not bode well for his already dismal popularity ratings (according to Pew Research Center’s poll, only 20% of those polled have a favorable view of Zardari, compared to 71% for PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif). In a piece for Dawn entitled, “While You Are (Perpetually) Away,” Shyema Sajjad emphasized,

Yes, so while I clicked on some pictures of you smiling with Nicholas Sarkozy, your children along your side, I also happened to come across pictures of some other families. They weren’t well-dressed and neither were they in France. They were crying, sitting in various parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. But then again, they are just a statistic right? I am not sure what the death toll was when you left but it has now crossed 1,400, with over three million affected. I understand discussing diplomacy and terror strategies are important but what about these people, sir? Are they really just a statistic for you? People with homes swept away and children drowned, can’t just be statistics.

Even British-Pakistani politicians Khalid Mahmood (from the Labour Party) and Nazir Khan have refused an invitation to meet the Pakistani President, who arrived yesterday for his five-day visit to the UK. Mahmood told Al Jazeera, “I just don’t feel I could bring myself to a meeting with somebody who has no ounce of respect for his own people, when these people are in dire straits.”

While this is certainly a time to be angry at our leadership, or lack thereof, it’s also a time to concentrate our energy towards helping the many people in need. And this is how you can do so [feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section]:

  • My company, ML Resources Social Vision, in partnership with Pakistani Peace Builders, launched Relief4Pakistan on August 13, a global grassroots donation campaign that leverages social media platforms to raise money for the flood affected families in Pakistan. See the R4P website here to donate (donations go directly to Mercy Corps’ first response relief efforts on the ground), or this blog post for more background.
  • [If you live in the United States] TextSWAT” to 50555 to donate $10 towards Pakistan’s flood victims. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has partnered with mGive again to allow mobile contributions for those affected by the disaster. Every $10 helps provide tents and emergency aid to displaced families. When prompted, reply with “YES” to confirm your gift.
  • Donate to Save the Children, which is on-the-ground and responding to the flood by preparing to distribute plastic sheeting for shelters and other household supplies and hygiene kits to families affected. At the request of the Pakistan Health Department and the World Health Organization, Save the Children has also deployed mobile health teams and ambulances to provide emergency medical treatment in the worst affected areas. Click here to donate directly to their efforts.
  • The International Rescue Committee‘s emergency team are currently working to serve Charsadda, Nowshera, Lower Dir and Swat. They are also conducting assessments in Kohat and Hangu, to better understand how those populations are being affected and what assistance they may need. In addition to providing these essential items and services, the IRC are also planning on providing livelihood activities, so as to help families get back on their feet as soon as possible. You can donate to the IRC by clicking here, or if you call 1-877-REFUGEE (1-877-733-8433), you can specifically earmark your donation for the Pakistani relief efforts.
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, has a team on the ground and is providing emergency medical services. To donate to MSF, go to their website.
  • Oxfam International is also on the ground and hopes to raise $6 million for their immediate and long-term response to the disaster. You can choose to make a donation to your nearest Oxfam affiliate, (though Oxfam Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Spain all currently running direct appeals for the Pakistan floods). Click here for information.
  • As noted in the above post, the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food to those affected by the flood. To donate to their efforts, see here.
  • The Edhi Foundation has a stellar reputation in Pakistan and provides emergency services to those in need. Click here to find and donate to your local Edhi office.
  • CARE International is also working on the ground in relief efforts. 90 cents of every dollar goes towards the cause, see here.

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Pakistan is Drowning

AP: Vilagers near Nowshera, in northwest Pakistan

As if this week wasn’t bad enough for Pakistan.

In the last three days, floods caused by monsoon rains have reportedly killed at least 430 people in the country, the worst to have hit the region since 1929. According to the Associated Press, “The rising toll from the monsoon rains underscore the poor infrastructure in impoverished Pakistan, where under-equipped rescue workers were struggling to reach people stranded in far-flung villages.” More than a million people have been affected by the disaster, and many have been displaced from their homes as the floods submerge villages and bridges, bloat rivers, and trigger landslides throughout the northwest of the country. A state of emergency has reportedly been declared in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and authorities have told people to evacuate the banks of the Kabul and Swat rivers. Residents in Muzafarabad also told the BBC there was no electricity or drinking water in parts of the city.

As the Pakistani Army transfers people to safety by helicopters and boats, the United Nations announced they will be launching rescue efforts in 29 affected districts in K-P (The UN agency has already launched similar efforts in Balochistan).

But after the rains subside, what will be the long-term impact of these floods? And, given Pakistan’s recent spate of militant attacks, political instability, natural disasters and plane crashes, how much more can our country take? Fahad Desmukh echoed my sentiments exactly when he tweeted, “God is giving the terrorists tough competition.”

(Ahsan at Five Rupees also has a great post on the issue of class in the coverage of national tragedies, looking at both the Airblue plane crash and the floods, see here).

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Cartoon from Jang

Last week, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met in New Delhi to end a “diplomatic freeze” between the two countries since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. According to Reuters’ Myra MacDonald, they did “what they were expected to do — laid out all the issues which divide the two countries and agreed to ‘keep in touch.'” However, the issue of water-sharing has been cause for contention between India and Pakistan over the years [it is also an internal issue in Pakistan among the provinces]. Below, Tariq Tufail, from Karachi, delves into the issues that stem from the 1960 Indus Water Treaty:

The Pakistan-India foreign secretary-level talks took place as scheduled. But curiously,  apart from the usual rhetoric of “terrorism” from the Indian side and “Kashmir” from the Pakistani side in the run-up to the talks, water became the more prominent issue.

Though the water issue has been raised in the past, and is one of the sustaining factors behind Pakistan’s continued interest in Kashmir, the articulation of water as a core India-Pakistan dispute in such a distinct and clear manner is unprecedented. Within the space of two weeks, water was mentioned as one of the principal disputes between India and Pakistan by our Prime Minister, our foreign minister, our Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and curiously, even Hafeez Sayeed of LeT/JuD. In order to understand the issue better, it is important to first provide a background of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

The Indus Water Treaty

Broadly speaking, the IWT grants exclusive use of the three eastern tributaries of the Indus River  – the Sutlej, Ravi and Beas Rivers to India and the three western tributaries – Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab Rivers to Pakistan. India is entitled to use all of the 33 million acre feet (MAF) of water from the eastern tributaries, of which it currently uses 30 MAF. Of the three western tributaries, the Jhelum, Chenab and Indus itself, which carries a flow of 143 MAF, India is entitled to store 3.6 MAF and is allowed to irrigate 13,43,477 acres of land. India does not store any water as of now and irrigates 7,92,426 acres. In addition, India is entitled to build “run of the river” hydroelectric projects, which do not store water on the western tributaries. The rise in the country’s usage of the water allocated to India (which used to flow to Pakistan earlier) is stressing the water availability in Pakistan. In addition, reduced snowfall and shifting weather patterns is reducing the water inflow.

Cutting through the usual rhetoric of India “stealing” water, several possibilities have to be analyzed:

  1. Pakistan is heightening the water issue to moderate the Indian negotiating tactic of focusing on terrorism
  2. India is really stealing water and violating the treaty
  3. India is not violating the “letter” of the treaty but the “spirit” of the treaty
  4. India is neither violating the letter or the spirit of the treaty, but due to increased water requirements, Pakistan is laying the ground to re-negotiate the Indus Water Treaty

It will be fruitless to speculate on (1), so let us concentrate on (2), (3) and (4).

At this point in time, the Pakistani government has not proven that India has stolen water. The allegation of Indian water theft has not been substantiated by either telemetry readings submitted by India or by water monitoring by Pakistan and has not been raised during the meetings of water commissioners of India and Pakistan. Moreover, because water sharing between Pakistan’s provinces is a contentious issue, water monitoring in Pakistan is a murky issue. To prevent discord among the provinces, monitoring sensors installed by Siemens are frequently tampered with and some monitoring sensors are regularly lost due to theft and sabotage. Even our Indus water commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah and ex-finance minister, Dr. Mubashar Hasan agree that no provable water theft is being committed by India.

Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that India is not violating the “letter” of the treaty, even if it may be maximizing its usage as accorded to India by the treaty. This is not enforceable in any court of law, and stirring domestic sentiment over such perceived “violations” reduces our policy options and creates disastrous consequences as the Baglihar episode showed, (for background on the Baglihar dam conflict, see this piece).

So what are the disadvantages of the massive construction spree by India?

  1. The national security elements in Pakistan are concerned that even as India is not reducing the flow of water to Pakistan, it is rapidly acquiring the capability to do so by building dams. This is certainly an area of concern, but the IWT does not prevent India from being able to stop water flow into Pakistan at a future date. It only prevents India from stopping water flow. A positive aspect is that the IWT has stood the test of time, with no violations reported during the 1965, 1971, 1989, Kargil, Parakram and Mumbai standoffs.
  2. Increasing India’s usage of the Indus is affecting Pakistan’s water supply and power projects. That is, the water that was allocated to India, which was previously un-utilized and subsequently flowed to Pakistan and was utilized by our farmers, is becoming increasingly scarce as India builds projects to exploit its share. Even though it causes massive problems in Pakistan, this point cannot be protested, since India is not in violation of the IWT. (For example, complaints about the Sutlej and the Ravi running dry are superfluous since India has exclusive rights to use the water of those rivers.)

So what can be done?

As pointed out beautifully by lawyer Ahmer Bilal Soofi, India cannot be compelled to give “concessions” to Pakistan as long as it complies with the letter of the IWT. Furthermore, any extraneous discussions about water sharing can be stymied by India, since water sharing according to the Indian stance is already settled by IWT. From their perspective, as long as India is not in violation of the treaty, there is nothing to discuss.

Of the remaining courses of action open to Pakistan, re-negotiation of the IWT has a very small chance of success (since both sides will try to get better terms than the current treaty even if India agrees to renegotiate). The right course of action is to massively modernize our irrigation infrastructure (it is estimated that up to 40% of water drawn from our head-works are lost due to seepage in unlined canals, theft and evaporation), stringently follow the inter-provincial water sharing accord of 1991, and gain the trust of the provinces so that new water projects such as Kalabagh can proceed without their objection while seeking unofficial concessions from India to tide over the interim 5-10 year period. However, seeking unofficial concessions might be a hard task, since it has to overcome the prevailing climate of suspicion between the two neighbors, as well as India’s own domestic interests like its own water requirements as well as the impact on public opinion and Indian farmers.

At the end of the day, the wrong course of action would be to stir public sentiment through half truths and lies and to involve non-state and Jihadi actors, which reduces the space for policy flexibility in Pakistan, and further hardens the Indian position.

The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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Everyone Poops

My friend, who works for the Water & Sanitation Program at the World Bank, passed along a short animated film they just produced on sanitation issues [read: poop] in Pakistan. Aside from my joking title, [a throwback to the fantastic children’s book, Everyone Poops] sanitation issues are a very serious problem in the developing world, particularly in rural and slum areas. According to statistics released by the Joint Monitoring Program, 90% of Pakistan’s urban population use improved sanitation [i.e., a toilet or a pit latrine], while 4% use shared [a toilet in a community that’s shared]. Only 6% defecate in the open. In contrast, only 40% of the country’s rural population use improved sanitation, 5% use shared, and 10% use unimproved sanitation [i.e., a hole in the ground]. This means that 45% of Pakistan’s rural population defecate [poop] in the open.

The film below explains exactly why this issue is so important, particularly from a public health perspective. Open defecation free, a term used in the cartoon, refers to when 100% of a community/village/town do not use the bathroom outside, [the most ideal scenario is to use improved sanitation methods, but the basic standard is not defecating outside]. However, as an article about sanitation in a small town in Pakistan also noted, becoming open defecation free requires more than just building toilets – raising awareness is also key. As the animated film below shows, change can occur when communities are empowered to become involved in the process. That way, change is more permanent than transient, and sanitation issues are properly addressed in the long run.

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