Provincial-level regulatory frameworks be evolved for groundwater access: WB

ISLAMABAD:The World Bank (WB) has recommended Pakistan to establish provincial level regulatory frameworks for a better management of groundwater access.

A recent report titled “Pakistan:Getting More from Water”, published by the World Bank said that the capacity of provincial water resources management departments should be strengthened for groundwater management and conjunctive planning.

The report also recommended to strengthen water user associations (WUAs) for local-scale monitoring and management of groundwater resources in line with agreed conjunctive water management

plans besides building capacity of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) for basin-scale modeling and analysis of surface water–groundwater interactions.

At policy level, the report suggested to develop conjunctive water management plans at the district level that focus on building drought resilience.

Given the growing problems of groundwater depletion in some areas and waterlogging and salinization in others, there is a big opportunity to adopt active conjunctive planning and management of surface water and groundwater, the report said adding while this needs to be coordinated at the provincial level, planning and implementation should happen at the district level.

Conjunctive use can improve climate resilience by using the storage capacity of aquifers. It can improve equity of water access, water use efficiency, and water productivity.

This will require new regulatory frameworks to clarify the legal basis for groundwater access, and the legal responsibility and authority for groundwater regulation.

It will also require capacity building within provincial government agencies and support to water user associations and farmer organizations to facilitate implementation of conjunctive plans.

Meanwhile the report also proposed to construct limited new storage and review reservoir operations saying that the widely held view is that water management in Pakistan is greatly constrained by inadequate storage, however the evidence does not support this view.

Given the current low productivity of water in Pakistan, it is not possible to justify expensive major storages on the economics of irrigation alone.

Nonetheless, sedimentation reduces existing live storage, and climate change will increase flow variability, making it more difficult to match supply and demand.

Multipurpose reservoirs, which can be economically justified by hydropower,should be constructed.

These will help to manage increasing flood risks and help to improve the reliability of rabi irrigation supply. Diamer Bhasha, upstream of Tarbela, will reduce the sediment load to Tarbela, thus extending its life.

The operating procedures for Tarbela and Mangla should be subject to periodic review. Changing demand patterns and flood regimes, the opportunity to better manage sediment loads, and the increasing important of delivering a manage environmental flow regime mean revised operating procedures are probably required to better balance across these multiple objectives.

A detailed modeling and optimization analysis should be undertaken to explore alternative operating procedures under historical and potential future inflow regimes.

It said reservoir standard operating procedures should be reviewed and revised based on detailed modeling and analysis besides strengthening of capacity at WAPDA and IRSA to enable periodic reviews of operating procedures and to support a multi-objective approach to operations.

Moreover it also suggested to secure financing for construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam and associated power generation and distribution infrastructure.