Posts Tagged ‘ Conflict ’

Foresight 101

(My interview with Prof. Sohail Inayatullah, Co-Founder MetaFuture – originally published in Dawn Magazine http://www.dawn.com/news/1155960/the-pakistani-nostradamus)

Extended version. 

Puruesh: What is futures studies?

Futures Studies is the study of alternative futures – possible, probable, preferred – and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. The futurist employs time, uses the future, to change the present. The futurist seeks not only to solve tomorrow’s problems today, but find tomorrow’s opportunities today. While many use futures studies in the corporate sector – focusing on strategic foresight, the use of the future to create more effective strategy – futures thinking can also be an asset for individuals, nongovernmental organizations, and associations. Futures as practice begins with identifying the default future and questioning it, and thus creating alternative future. It is a way, a practice, to decolonize time.

My mapping alternative futures, one has a better map of what is emerging, and thus one more successfully navigate change. By having a vision of the future, during difficult times one can stay focused on where one is going. By using scenarios, one is better prepared for contingencies and far more ready to make necessary changes as the world changes.

Futures studies has moved from prediction and accuracy to scenarios and uncertainty. More recent efforts have focused on not getting the particularly right (given the rapid rate of change) but on creating reflective, adaptable learning organizations and cultures. This means that foresight – or an understanding of how, self, world, technology are mutually changing – is embedded into the nature of the organization and nation.

Puruesh: Has this been a difficult journey?

I have really enjoyed my work in Futures Studies. Certainly when I was starting out as a university undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii, some professors did not think it was a wise route. One said: “Futures Studies, it is just a can of worms.” Other suggested I go to law school instead. But following the words of Joseph Campbell, I needed to follow my bliss, and I did.

I pursued a graduate degree in Political science with a focus on futures studies and then did my Phd on macrohistory, the grand patterns of change.

I have been working as a professor at multiple universities and co-director of a think tank focused on creating alternative and preferred futures.

Over the past 20 years, Futures Studies has taken off throughout the world – in the offices of Prime Ministers, in corporations, in ngos, and with individuals. There is a great need and desire to explore alternative futures, envision the preferred and developed transformative strategies to achieve the desired.

Puruesh: Foresight studies is the most interesting phenomena of building scenarios on longer time horizons; why in your opinion do you see a growing use of such techniques by Governments and Businesses?

Yes, everywhere. I have just finished a project for the Office of the PM, government of Canada on the social disruptive futures of Asia 2030. They sought research and advice on how Asia was changing. A few months back I did a project with my colleague and co-director of our think tank, Metafuture.org, Professor Ivana Milojevic on the implications of the youth bulge, ageing and migration on the Middle East and North Africa. And earlier this year, we spent a session presenting foresight methods and tools to the Science and Technology Policy Institute, Government of South Korea. I also teach a course at the Mt Eliza Executive Education, Melbourne Business School where CEOs and senior leaders spend four days exploring the future.

Why? There is more and more uncertainty and individuals and organizations desire a map of the future so they can make more effective decisions. As well, they realize more and more that old tools and methods do not work when change is both heterogeneous and exponential – the rapid and uneven pace of change – requires new methods and tools. As well, executives need new narratives so they can lead in uncertain times.

Certainly at the national level, Pakistan needs a new narrative, as it has been defined firstly as non-India and then not-West. Or, in the last twenty plus years the future has been cornered by a particular extremely conservative, rear-view looking brand of politics. While there historically have been multiple contending images of Pakistan – I tried to explore these in research on images of Pakistan’s futures – the Islamic socialist (roti, capra, makaan), the Islamic rightist (the Land of the pure); threatened sovereignty (from within and without); the grand disillusionment and the planned disciplined capitalist economy (like South Korea), the last decade has seen the choices narrow with the contending images of the land of the pure, threatened sovereignty and the grand disillusionment dominant. Recent politics has been an attempt to find a way out of these limiting images, to break the pendulum between rule of the military and landlords, and the attempt of the maulvis to control both.

The crises and the foundational changes of the past few decades– the collapse of communism, the Asian financial crisis, SARS, the global financial crisis as well stunning shifts in world geopolitics – the rise of China – digital disruptions with the growth of the internet along with advances in genomics, in preventive, personalized and participatory health – all require a different way of understanding the future. More complex and nuanced maps are required. And as the future keeps on changing, our maps need to be more robust. We often forget that the future changes with every step we take. Where do we wish to go? Every decision, every future has a cost.

Puruesh: Tell us in simple language how Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) can help leadership prevent policy failures? And how is it different from other foresight tools and methodologies?

CLA is a simple method that seeks to unpack policy issues at four levels. For example in health work, if we seek to increase quality and safety and reduce medical errors, then level 1 or litany solutions are to education doctors differently – more training. Level 2 or systemic analysis is to redesign medical systems, to make them more efficient, to redesign hospitals to make them ageing friendly, to set up protocols so there are checklists that reduce mistakes. Level 3 or worldview analysis is to see how the different stakeholders: doctors, nurses, specialists, patients, registrars all see the process. Level 3 develops a dialogue of efficiencies and by using the wisdom of many increases effectiveness. Level 4 analysis is focused on the metaphor that coheres the system, in the case of medical systems, the current model is the “doctor is always right.” The new emerging more effective model is patient-centred, “I am the expert of me.” The new story reduced risks since quality and safety are enhanced as now the patient is in dialogue with the system. They are empowered in this participatory process. With CLA, all four are required – changes in how measure the future, changes in the system, changes in the culture and changes in the core narrative, the metaphor that creates meaning.

In Pakistan, certainly, new measurements of growth are required, that go beyond gdp. Extensive systemic reforms are required that encourage cooperatives, the social economy, reducing the power of the State as ensuring that the playing field is fair. And a forward looking worldview with a new metaphor is needed.

Puruesh: What has been the most interesting challenge for you as a futurist? 

I try and learn from every group I work with. I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. I need to find ways for individuals to recover agency in their lives, to let them speak their truths and let them explore what is urgent and important to them. My role then becomes the facilitator who guides others. However, dealing with the voices of skepticism, cynicism in facilitative environments can be a challenge. More and more, I let others in the room respond to the resisters – to let other participants share their knowledge and experiences. I also now try and frame the cynicism as an idealist who has been hurt, and thus, my role is to have them explore their narrative around social change, around what is possible. With resisters, I see that the goal is to find out what they are resisting and use their knowledge to make solutions more transformative, to include them without being captured by their fear, disguised as cleverness.

Puruesh: As inspiring as this is, this way of thinking futures connects people at such a rudimentary level that it can only…

…lead to better strategies, more informed decision-making, longer term decision-making, and more importantly decision-makers who are reflective of their own life stories and organizations who begin to move toward becoming a learning organizations. Often organizations want the right answer, the future. Our role is to expand this to alternative futures, scenarios. But even this is not enough; more than a map is required. We also require ways to successfully implement the preferred future such is backcasting (wherein the desired future is considered already arrived and we remember the past, the milestones that led us to the future). And finally, the inner work of discovering one’s own core metaphor and how the metaphor defines the world we see is critical to creating different futures.

Puruesh: So long range planning is possible?

Futures studies is not long range planning. It is not the PLAN – which is static, owned by the government. Rather futures studies is challenging the present, opening up alternatives, and developing inclusive approaches to policy making. Certainly from strategic foresight – an overview of how technologies are changing – one can articulate strategic plans. But the first step is the scan – how is the world changing?

Some nations build in foresight to the Office of the Prime Minister. Others seek to encourage foresight in the Ministry of Science and Technology. Others believe it should not be wasted with the bureaucracy but rather seeded throughout society, as capacity building, as anticipatory democracy. Still others believe education – critical, questioning, open-ended, process based – comes first. And still others see that it is best if corporations and professional associations lead in scenario development. Ultimately, it does not matter where one starts, as long as one starts.

Puruesh: Global Futurists is a very small community, how does it build its niche in a developing world or is this just a super power thing?

Certainly, foresight work has taken off in wealthier areas as they can afford to invest in the knowledge economy, in ideas that make a difference. At the same time, we have seen great success in using futures studies in developing areas such Malaysia, and poorer areas such as Bangladesh. The Rockefeller foundation has began a wonderful initiative titled, “pro-poor foresight.” Each person already has a view of the future, futurists work on making that view explicit, and then deconstructing the future, so that nations, organizations and individuals can move toward desired futures instead of living the used future, or the colonized future. Thus it is crucial for the developing world to unpack its current view of the future – is it only playing catch-up? If so, what are some other models? For the developing world, other stories are also required. I was discussion foresight in cancer research. And a researcher told me in one developed nation, the cancer patient said the only way she could get off the fast track of development, the one way train line was to get cancer. The pressure of that story on her health was overwhelming. No choices were possible. At an OIC foresight course in Dhaka on the futures of education, the old story, participants suggested was the arranged marriage, ie the given future. The new story was the love marriage, the created future. This was not a denial of the society but an understanding that change is required if individuals are to be happier and education to be more effective. The Ministry may know many things as do professors, but the best pedagogy is student-centred, process-based, interactive and whole of person, encompassing multiple ways of knowing.

Puruesh: What potential do you see within the Pakistan’s ecosystem; having played a significant and an influencing role in various decision-making circles of different Governments and Businesses; Is there a space for a mind-shift?

Each nation has different pulls of the future, imaginations of what is possible? And each nation has different weights or deep structures that prevent possibility – time, the bureaucracy, the mind-set of nothing is possible, the power of the landlords, for example. Pakistan, for sure, has more weights then imagination. But the same drivers of change are here – the need for renewable energy, the need for better infrastructure, the impacts of globalization, digitalization, for example. Thus, in Pakistan the possibility of agency is more challenged. And yet, there, within one’s zone of control, many things one can do.

At foresight workshops in Pakistan, there has been a dramatic interest in scenario writing, in using narrative based foresight methods, in backcasting –in strategic transformation. And in types of interactive pedagogy.

Thus, certainly change is possible. However, the greatest weight is the worldview of geo-politics, of the international relations paradigm, where everything is a “card game” and each nation is fighting for supremacy. It is not that we do not live in a jungle of nation-states, it is that this mind-set overwhelms other possible ways to see reality and the future. It is a zero-sum game that destroys the ecology of thought.

However, when I have run foresight workshops in Pakistan, participants have been brilliant: creative, resourceful, and balanced between theory and practice. As one scientist said, “most of our training is in how to hold on to what we have: foresight, I see, is about creating the new.”

Puruesh: What of the challenge of governments constantly changing, that is, the lack of continuity in policy?

Certainly engaging in long term projects – foresight or infrastructure – is far more challenging when there is either regular political change or coups. But this occurs throughout the world – in established democracies and democracies where institutionalization and deep culture has yet to emerge. In these places, the goal is to articulate foresight not solely at the state level but in professional associations (in policing, for example, or universities) and in civil society in general. Thus capacity building becomes equally important. Thus, there is a push from sideways and from below if there is a political change. The long-term is not lost sight of. Even in established democracies foresight can be difficult. In Malaysia for example, in the education system, we focus on leadership development, working with deans, professors and deputy-vice chancellors to articulate new visions and strategies. Of course, capacity building – learning how and when to wisely use tools of change –takes time. I use the anticipatory action learning approach. Learn by doing and constantly question the future. In policing – the global pearls of policing project – we focus not just on the current commissioners but the future commissioners. The current commissioners set an assignment for the deputies, eg the futures of cyber policing, and then using futures tools and methods they present their scenarios and global strategies back to the commissioners. This helps create new strategies and enhances the capacity of the deputies so when they become national commissioners they can not only excel and problem solving but think of the long term. Thus, even in situations where political change is frequent, success is possible.

Puruesh: And what of corporations and their focus on the single bottom line and quarterly returns.

In Pakistan, certainly corporations are not strategic. They focus on implementation and operations, rarely looking at what’s next – new technologies, new opportunities – and success often only occurs through the cultivation of personal relationships. But if Pakistani corporations wish to go global, certainly having a clear vision, articulating scenarios, searching for outlier events and emerging issues can reduce their risk and enhance opportunities. The issue is if the leader and the board merely wish to be more efficient in the current game or do they wish to create new game, to excel at the emerging landscape. I have worked with hundreds of corporate leaders and most want both – to keep on getting returns in the short run but also to have an eye out on the changing world, so that they are not disrupted.

Almost every part of Pakistani society is ripe for technological disruption, for example, imagine how uber (which disrupts the private taxi system) would increase efficiency in transport? Pakistan, as African nations are already doing, leapfrog the West and innovate. That is, since many African nations did not have landlines, they went straight to mobile phones, and thus have innovated in the digital economy, for example, with the invention of mobile money – m-pesa. Similarly, Pakistan which is mired in a feudal economy could bypass the oligarchic capitalist and move into a collaborative social economy. Already social technologies such as the Hawala system exist, but digitalization (allowing real time personalized transparent information where the user creates value) would allow the creation of a true social economy where value grows through connectivity. Instead of being marginalized, the informal economy could become the social economy – relationships could be leveraged for prosperity in transparent ways. Both feudalism and capitalism would be challenged.

Puruesh: How often do you find people apprehensive to your way of approaching an issue or a national crisis? Please share your experience?

The people I work with are rarely apprehensive. They are excited to be part of a process of transformation. They are excited to be creative and find new solutions. They are excited to design new products. They are excited to challenge their own paradigms and create new possibilities. They do worry that if the change and others stay in the old world, will they felt feel left out, too far ahead of the mass. That is the main concern, being too far ahead and perhaps not so easily intelligible. However, those interested in futures tend to be idealistic while very grounded in strategy and data. They are balanced. However, they seek change, and know that current models do not work. Disruption and innovation will occur, the issue is whether they, Pakistan, will be part of that change. Will they be inventors of the future, or passive recipient of the words and stories of others.

The choice is easy.

clear-skies & bright-lights dimmed

There’s nothing fake about Balochistan, nor there is an absolute reality to what we see, hear and delinquently opinionate on. Pakistan is not Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad, it is when you travel to Quetta and from Quetta passing through Qilla Abdullah, Khan Kili, Kili Malik Ghulam Jilani on Chaman Bypass  all the way up to the Pak-Afghan Border’s Friendship Gate; is where you find the real Pakistan.

There’s nothing so ‘friendly’ about the Gate accept for the polio team administering vaccinations to the Afghan children. Something that even the Afghan’s have common in Spinboldak.

– we’re a funny nation – its tragic.

Creating new wars or dwelling over decades old conflict does not by any standard defy the odds of sanity. Staying in one’s own comfort zone and talking about Baloch insurgencies and the transgressions of the Law Enforcement Agencies doesn’t change the fact that, Nasrullah, father of 11 growing up amidst conflict, sarcastically explains how painful it is to live to survive and to support his family. Yet he naively laughs off his agonies and brushes away the scars of hurt, as he drives us all the way to Chaman on the most brutal road – conditioned to leave one with a backache for life.

As we are driven through the most beautiful part of Pakistan, we see real people, real lives, and shattered dreams hopelessly counting down on the days to the life promised once upon a time by the Quaid in ‘47.

“We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play”.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Life is plain harsh, there are no two ways of explaining – this should in an ideal world put most fortunate to shame. We have an undeniable capacity to decapitate ourselves from the realities on the ground and look the other only adding to the miseries of the innocent and the neglect. Chaman and Spinboldak share three villages and a mosque at the Pak-Afghan border; what unfortunately we have failed to share and resolve is our grievances and hatred.

We have been easily relating to nations sitting half way across the world, yet we have failed to relate to the ones living right next-door for the all the good and the bad strategic reasons that led to the decisions we fall short of rectifying.

Balochistan, as I see can be narrowed down to a) internal conflict and b) external influence; both which need to be aggressively resolved and addressed. A safe future for the children of Balochistan lies in the decisions need to be taken ‘NOW’ by the authorities in power, who are ready to face the unforgiving lives crafted over the decades of abandonment outside of their luxurious offices.

Afghan Qoumi Movement, is one of the walk-chalking we drove right pass, and with every passing security check post there was a bleak reminder of ‘Pakistan First’.

‘First’ for who?

Many journalists in Balochistan are exploited into working for free, yet they continue to risk their lives into reporting on community-interest stories. Some have gone to the extent of saying that the profession is nothing but ‘Munshirgiri’. In their part of the world they feel belligerently cut-off from the mainstream media. Post 9-11, journalism was a booming career around Pak-Afghan border just like the economy near one in Chaman.

Might I go into details, would be too risky.

Civilized nations find a way to move forward despite kidnapping, killings and extortions. We need to find one for Balochistan and we need to find one fast; And not stay cuddled up in front of the tube deriving our knowledge on the province from considerably the most exhausting panel competing in the National Awards for who screams the loudest.

Someone very wise once put it across as plainly as; Pakistan losing its ‘Unity’ in diversity, ‘Faith’ in itself(ves) and ‘Discipline’ as a people.

Pakistan in the ‘extreme risk’ category on the Conflict Risk Index

Pakistan shares the first position on the Conflict Risk Index, joining alongside are Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq and South Sudan.

According to the third annual Conflict Intensity Index, released by risk analysis and mapping company Maplecroft, rates 12 countries at ‘extreme risk.’ The popular uprisings of the Arab Spring have propelled Egypt, Libya and Syria into the most severe risk category of an annual study evaluating the intensity of armed conflict across 197 nations, while economic giant India is also rated at ‘extreme risk.’

The index has been developed by Maplecroft as a tool for multinational corporations to assess ongoing trends for conflict and potential risks to operations or investments. It looks at the broad range of conflicts – not only those that take place between two states, but also those within countries between state security forces and rebel militias, or between different ethnic and religious communities. The index is primarily calculated using the number of fatalities caused by conflict in each country between October 2010 and August 2011. However, it also considers critical precursors to conflict, such as threats of violence and economic sanctions.

21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers

…is the theme of 2011’s edition of World Press Freedom Day, on May 03 which will once again mark the Windhoek Declaration for promoting free and pluralistic media. Media & Communication analysts believe that the role of internet, new media and social networking sites may become a vital tool for journalists living in countries prone to frequent chaos and conflict.

Death toll shows Pakistan as new hotspot

Pakistan has become the world’s most dangerous country for the press. Journalists remain most vulnerable to Pakistan’s internal conflict, repression and violence. Leading journalist protection agencies have quoted Pakistan as one of the deadliest countries for journalists, despite a significant drop in fatalities from 72 in 2009 to 48; Pakistan has lost almost 12 journalists this year alone from a previous 8.

(figures vary on Reporters Sans Frontieres and Committee Protect to Journalists)

On the Press Freedom Index 2010, Pakistan scored an alarming 56.17 points and was ranked 151 out of 178 nations; Eritrea was last with 105 points. Much of the blame goes to the surge in militancy for putting the country into lower ranks. This year the trends or the reasons of fatality have slightly changed, threats to journalists come more from the militant groups rather than from the Government or the military.

Suicide bombings, abductions and cross-fires are making it all the while difficult for the journalists to practice their occupation. Meanwhile, media houses in Pakistan continue to fail in providing adequate security to their staff in form of trainings, safety equipments, flak/bullet-proof jackets…

2010 : 48 journalists killed, Press Freedom Barometer 2010

Faces of the fallen from 2010 to be remember through 2011 and through many more years to come;

 

Muhammad Khan Sasoli, 36

December 15, 2010

Correspondent Royal TV and INP news agency

Khuzdar, Balochistan

Sasoli, President Khuzdar Press Club was gunned down in the city outside his residence. According to colleagues to Reporters Without Borders, Sasoli was a “serious and professional journalist”. The district is considered highly volatile due to frequent armed conflict between the security forces and baloch nationalists.

 

Pervez Khan

December 6, 2010

Correspondent Waqt TV

Ghalanai, Mohmand Agency

Khan was among 50 people killed in a twin-suicide bombing during a tribal jirga at Ghalanai’s administrative centre over the formation of an anti-taliban group. Local Taliban group took responsibility for the attack.

 

Abdul Wahab

December 6, 2010

Correspondent, Express News

Ghalanai, Mohmand Agency

Wahab was also among 50 people killed in the twin-suicide attack at the Jirga. Two terrorists wearing police uniforms carried out the attack. The meeting was between the tribal elders and government officials.

 

Misri Khan

September 14, 2010

Reporter, Ausaf and Mashriq

Hangu

Khan, reporter for two Urdu dailies published in Peshawar and President of Hangu Union of Journalists, was shot several times as he entered the press club building in Hangu. Khan had been reporting for over 20 years.

He was survived by a wife, six sons, and five daughters.

 

Ejaz Raisani

September 6, 2010

Cameraman, Samaa TV

Quetta, Balochistan

Raisani died in a military hospital of gunshot injuries he suffered three days earlier when a suicide bomber detonated explosives aimed at a Shiite demonstration, triggering gunfire that killed more than 60 people and left over a 100 injured. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the violence.

Raisani was married with two children.

 

Ejazul Haq, 42

May 28, 2010

Technician, City-42 TV

Lahore, Punjab

Haq was killed while reporting from the scene of an armed attack on Ahmadi mosque, which was in his neighbourhood, according to news accounts gathered by CJP.

Haq was survived by a wife, a daughter, and a son.

More than 80 people were killed that day in sieges that lasted for several hours.

 

Ghulam Rasool Birhamani, 40

May 9/10, 2010

Reporter, Daily Sindhu Hyderabad

Wahi Pandhi, Sindh

Birhamani’s body was found outside his hometown of Wahi Pandhi on May 10, day after he was reported abducted. According to Pakistan Press Foundation, Birhamani’s body showed evidence of physical torture. Birhamani’s family believe he was killed because of his reporting on ethnic issues in the province.

He left behind a wife, two sons, and a daughter.

 

Azamat Ali Bangash, 34

April 17, 2010

Cameraman/Correspondent, Samaa TV

Orakzai Agency

Bangash, cameraman and a correspondent for Samaa TV was among over 4o refugees killed in a suicide attack during food distribution in a refugee camp in Orakzai.  He happens to the second Samaa Journalist being killed in such a attack in within 2 days.

Bangash was survived by a wife and three children.

 

Malik Arif

April 16, 2010

Cameraman, Samaa TV

Quetta, Balochistan

Arif was killed among eight others in a suicide bombing outside the emergency ward of civil hosputal in Quetta.

 

Mohammad Sarwar

September 3, 2010

Driver, Aaj TV

Quetta, Balochistan

Sarwar died in violence which erupted right after a suicide attack at a rally in Quetta. According to local reports Sarwar was shot twice. The suicide bombing targeted a Shiite gathering, trigging gunfire and chaos; which left over 60 people dead.

 

Mehmood Chandio, 45

December 5, 2010

Bureau Chief, Awaz TV

Mirpurkhas, Sindh

Chandio was shot by unknown assailants outside is house in Mirpurkhas. Mehmood Chandio was the President for Mirpurkhas Press Club. Reports suggest, Chandio passed after being taken to the hospital. Cause of his death, according to committee to protect journalists remain unconfirmed

He was survived by his wife, mother, and six children.

 

Lala Hameed Baloch

November 18, 2010

Reporter, Daily Intikhab

Gwadar

Hameed disappeared on October 25 while on his way back home in Gwadar. His gunshot-riddled body was found on the outskirts of Turbat. Many of the local journalists believe, the security officials abducted Hameed.

Hameed was known for supporting Baloch Nationalist Movement, one of the possible motives considered for his murder.

 

According to a new RAND Corporation study that examines counter-radicalization programs, de-radicalizing extremists which challenges the “ideology” could be far more important than having them refrain from violence. But as these counter-radicalization or de-radicalization programmes continue to take shape and form in the ever-so secured locations, the fact hasn’t seemed to change much; almost seven journalists lost their lives to these terrorist attacks, three of them pitifully from the same media outlet.

The ideology may need to change in places where its least expected, programmes and research of de-radicalization that influences the belief systems may need to be conducted which may need change mind-sets, develop them in a manner that supports and encourages and invests in safety trainings of media professionals in high conflict zones; which may just mean all across Pakistan.

committed to journalism, or committed to surviving? which one first…

 

Water Matters

Population Growth: Economy, Agriculture and Energy

According to the Water Security Risk Index, released by Maplecroft[1], Pakistan has the least secure supplies of water and is in the extreme risk category.

The world’s sixth most and second most populous Muslim country; Pakistan’s population is projected to swell up to over 330 million in year 2050, as indicated by the population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat[2].

Today, as the country faces unprecedented security threats, dwindling economy, natural hazards and political instability; many analysts still believe that the country has promising market opportunities in future. The availability of water will become a much higher priority in business decisions and investment endeavors.

One of the country’s most urgent challenges is how to manage the nation’s precious water resources to meet growing human, economic, and environmental needs. Pakistan remains in the high-risk category with respect to water availability. The availability of clean water has dropped from 1950s: 5,000 cubic meters to less than 1,500 cubic meters per person today[3], primarily due to the rapid growth in population. And yet we remain dependent on only three hydrological units, two of which are rapidly silting from the Himalayas[4].

As the population increases the pressure on the existing water resources will intensify. The shift will have an adverse impact on employment, economic development, healthcare systems, food security, urban management, chronic diseases, biodiversity, communal and social harmony etc etc.

The existing water and sanitation infrastructure in the cities is inadequate to cope with the increasing urbanization, which is putting a majority of the population at risk and causing serious damage to the environment. Water-related disasters such as floods, tropical storms, and heavy rainfalls only add toll to the human suffering.

Pakistan has already been through two of the gravest natural hazards this year so far; the Attabad crisis and the recent floods. Causes: Glacial melt and for the latter the debate is still among the monsoon patterns, heavy rainfall, climate change, dams and deforestation. Which ever case it is, as of now 20 million people are homeless, lives have been lost, as desperation and hunger persists.

It has been estimated by resource experts that continued growth in population will reduce per-capita freshwater availability by 70 per cent by 2070 and Pakistan will be a water scarce society[5]. The increase in demand for water will adversely affect the groundwater resources, as over 70 percent of it is allocated already to Pakistan’s irrigation and other agricultural needs; one million tubewells across the country are satisfying short-term needs but leading to unsustainable use of groundwater and declining water levels. This cannot continue.

The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) has recently recommended to the Government of Pakistan to create Water Regulatory Authority, which will consist of representatives from the federal and provincial governments. The purpose of the authority is to regulate optimum water use and balance in different basins under enabling legislation[6].

According to studies conducted on Water Management, Pakistan also loses almost two-thirds of its supply to leaks and poor transmission in its canal system due to poor infrastructure and the inefficient water management.

Pakistan already has one of the highest child mortality rates in Asia[7]; an estimated 250,000 deaths occur each year due to water-borne diseases[8]. According to the national water report, less than one in four rural households is connected to a tap; many others simply rely on inferior sources.

Inter-provincial conflicts over water also complicate water management: the construction of large dams or other infrastructure is slow and costly and can take up to 10 years; many fear that new needed dams will not be built quickly enough to reduce water problems anytime soon.

In an online interview, President, Pacific Institute and Member US Academy of Sciences, Dr. Peter H. Gleick also the author of ‘bottled and sold’ narrows down Pakistan’s precarious water situation, to few basic solutions, according to Dr. Gleick there is a need for building appropriate water-infrastructure, while also protecting downstream usage and rights on sharing. He says the relevant political institutions have a crucial role to play in effectively managing the possible internal conflicts arising out of water-sharing; but most of all, he says to eradicate the imbalance from within the society authorities will need to focus on providing people access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation.

According to the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon “As the global economy grows, so will its thirst. This is not an issue of rich or poor, north or south. All regions are experiencing the problem of water stress. There is still enough water for all of us – but only so long as we keep it clean use it more wisely and share it fairly. Governments must engage and lead, ant he private sector also has a role to play in this effort”

In contrast to the technical approach; the Government of Pakistan will need to bring a more focused media attention in addressing and covering matters related to attaining the required benchmark for water conservation and management. An effort that engages media, public-private sector, academia and the non-governmental organizations focused on raising awareness within Pakistani society of water’s value and the need to place a price on its usage.  Pakistan’s public sectors respond to everyday water needs of average citizens in urban, peri-urban and rural settings, whether for drinking, irrigation, industrial, religious, or other use.  This platform along with a variety of interventions will build a national dialogue on water enabling multiple stakeholders in effectively creating content most relevant to the Pakistani society.

One of Pakistan’s targets in achieving millennium development goals is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. However, it is believed that Pakistan is far from achieving this target. The members of the United Nations are meeting this month in New York to discuss the progress on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the 65th UN Summit.

 

(First appeared on the back-page of Finance and Review section of The News.)

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