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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Usman_Khalid
Full Name: Brig (R) Usman Khalid
User since: 20/Sep/2007
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'Breaking the circle of ignorance'

 

Column by Zahrah Nasir – The Nation, Feb 04:

 

(Dams do not consume water; they STORE water for use downstream. It is at the barrages that water is consumed as irrigation canals are taken out. River Indus has such little water below Kotri because of Kotri Barrage, not Tarbela Dam. In fact the province of Sindh has received 33% more water after the construction of Tarbela Dam. Sindh will get its share of 37% from every dam which may be built on River Indus thus increasing – not decreasing – the availability of water. The Kalabagh Dam has become controversial because it has a provision for two new canals – the right bank canal for DI Khan area, and left bank canal for the very fertile area between Indus and Jhelum Rivers. But the two canals need to be built to implement the 1991 Water Accord, not to violate it. At the moment, KPK is not able to draw the 10% share it got vide that Accord. The province of Punjab can get its full share of Indus water of 37% only after the left bank canal to be taken out from Kalabagh Dam is built. The province of Sindh would build another barrage at Sewan Sharif as additional water becomes available. Building of dam depends on the availability of additional sites - gorges – not additional water. Whether only one more dam is built in the Indus Basin or five, as four more sites are available, no additional water would be needed. The increased storage would only make ample supply of water to the entire irrigation system in Pakistan more dependable. Our country is being held back by ignorance which afflicts journalists and politicians more than any other group. +Usman Khalid, Director Rifah Institute of Foreign Affairs – RIFA +)        

 

Opening her column with a very apt description of the electioneering shenanigans going on and the possible farcical elections, she says:

 

Like it or not, the elections are going to be nothing more than a side show as compared to the impending calamities of everyday existence, which are building up to make their presence well and truly felt. And yes, it is unavoidably correct, to lay all of these at the feet of self-imposed ignorance in the extreme.

 

Take, as a prime example that taken for granted liquid without which life simply cannot be: water. Everything we do, or attempt to do for that matter, is, somewhere along the line, based on water. This increasingly precious ‘commodity’ is an essential ingredient of survival, necessary as it is for drinking, for food production, for power production, house construction, clothing and shoe manufacture and right on down the endless line to the nitty-gritty of personal hygiene.

 

Yet, even though warnings, some of them extremely severe indeed, have been issued about potentially crippling shortages to come, the majority have, quite ridiculously, chosen, out of purely selfish ignorance, to completely ignore them.

 

And, this is equally ridiculous, simply to expect someone else, maybe even one of the criminally negligent governments the country has suffered since its inception, to do something about it whilst they, themselves, perpetually bleat about shortages and the cost of tankers and then, immediately more than a single drop of water trickles their way, rush around wasting it as if tomorrow is not another day.

 

And much as water efficiency ideas are regularly kicked around, very few people, let alone organisations or government departments that are, as they have always tended to be, highly conspicuous in their absence, transform these ideas into action. Those who do, however, are largely ridiculed by the society as a whole. That scoffs, openly, at sensible inputs like rainwater harvesting systems and the recycling of ‘gray’ water for garden use.

 

As of now, although rains, perhaps heavy, have been forecast, there has been extremely low precipitation over the winter months. Thus, water levels in dams are way down on average for the time of year and, even if there is a few days of torrential rain, this situation is unlikely to be rectified to manageable levels as much of this forecast rain will simply go to waste one way or another.

 

One weather forecasting station goes as far as to indicate that Pakistan may suffer severe flooding sometime this week. Yet, much as it is hoped that this will not occur, even if it does, existing water systems will not be able to cope, let alone efficiently store such a badly needed bounty. And, before you know it, people will be shouting ‘water scarcity’ yet again.

 

This increasingly vicious cycle of short-lived water ‘feast’, followed by increasingly prolonged ‘famine’ is, according to long-term meteorological experts and climate change scientists, expected to increase not, as ignoramuses may wish, at some far distant and unspecified date in the future. But starting from right now and has, if people can get their heads around reality, been clearly evident over the last few years at least.

 

Waiting, in expectation that the situation will resolve itself without a helping hand from every single person in this rapidly exploding population level of 190 million plus, for things to revert to ‘normal’ is sheer ignorance at its stupid, self-destructive best. Yet, this is exactly what Pakistanis have, on the whole, chosen to do.

 

Staring directly into the face of impending disaster, on a scale never before experienced in this part of the world where agriculture has, until now, always kept starvation at bay, and still blindly refusing to take remedial action in every conceivable way possible is - aside from being unimaginably suicidal in the extreme - so unbelievably, unutterably stupid; as to defy all previously recognized definitions of willful ignorance, which have, or ever will, exist - go to the top of the class Pakistan and claim your gold medal, while you still have life in you to do so.

 

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001)

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