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Regional approach to water: The Daily Times, Apr 27

27 April 2010 No Comment

One issue that stood out in Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir’s address to the 37th session of the Standing Committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Bhutan was the need to adopt a regional approach towards tackling water issues. Environment and climate change will be the focus of the 16th SAARC Summit, which is going to adopt a declaration titled ‘Green and Happy South Asia’. Climate change worldwide and the malign effects of global warming will have a negative impact on our common heritage — the Himalayas — which are the reservoirs of our water in the form of glaciers. And that is how the subcontinent has, historically, remained one of the most fertile areas of the world. The water that flows down the mountains and is distributed through an extensive irrigation system is a source of livelihood and the very survival of millions comprising the agrarian communities of the region.

The issue of water distribution is the bone of contention between upper and lower riparian countries in the region. Voices of protest against India pilfering Pakistan’s share of water are growing louder. Besides Pakistan, India has had problems with Bangladesh on the waters of River Ganges that forms its delta in Bangladesh. These are issues dictated by nature, which is no respecter of political boundaries. Without a cross-border and region-wise cooperation, these issues cannot be settled to the satisfaction of all parties.

The same applies to all other issues, be it energy, food security, trade, people to people contacts, security, etc. The proximity and relative ease of transportation has the enormous potential to make trade among member countries a booming success, whose benefits will accrue at all levels of the regional economy. Unfortunately, this potential of cooperation among member states has not been tapped because of bilateral political problems, particularly between India and Pakistan. Since no bilateral issue can be discussed on the forum of SAARC, this hampers progress on key issues, affecting all other countries. This is not to say that progress has not been made since SAARC came into being, but the kind of cooperation necessary to make the dream of a prosperous and peaceful South Asia — originally envisaged in the body’s charter — a reality, is nowhere in the offing. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\27\story_27-4-2010_pg3_1

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