By Hasan Akhtar Rizvi, Head, Education, Communication and Knowledge Management Group, IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Pakistan
In recent years, water has emerged as one of the most critical themes of sustainable development, especially in the arid countries of the developing world like Pakistan. Considering that nearly 70% of water usage in the world is for agriculture (in Pakistan it’s as high as 95%), growing populations, needing ever more food, create great stress on existing water resources and exceeding the sustainable yield of aquifers.
As such, dams and other water issues related to agriculture in Pakistan are emotive and take on strong political overtones, especially in the context of water distribution between various regions and provinces. While the debate on water is generating a lot of heat, there is little light to resolve these issues on rational grounds. One important reason for this state of affairs is the dearth of reliable data and information on these subjects. There's indeed a pressing need to set up a knowledge base on water that should have the widest possible access.
While it has become a cliché to claim that the world is undergoing an information revolution, it is both real and its effects, irreversible. Information has become the most prized commodity in the world today and knowledge is fast becoming the only abiding basis for continued progress and economic growth of a nation. According to Mahathir Mohammed, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, "It can be no accident that there is today no wealthy developed country that is information-poor, and no information-rich country that is poor and undeveloped.”
Knowing this critical importance of information sharing and access to authentic water related information for effective water management and decision making, IUCN -The World Conservation Union, with support from the Government of Netherlands, has set up the Pakistan Water Gateway (PWG) as a reference repository for an evolving body of knowledge. It addresses water as a resource in its many dimensions, serves to assess and disseminate shared experiences, publicize policies and guidelines and facilitate cooperation on water issues.
Some of the key features of PWG (waterinfo.net.pk) include:
Daily water news: Daily water news about Pakistan, culled from the top Pakistani newspapers available on the Web. Key water information: Information carefully compiled by experts about different dimensions of water (e.g. water resources, irrigation, rivers, dams, policies and accords, etc.). Water sector organizations: A comprehensive information base about water sector organizations in Pakistan. Water experts directory: An interactive database of Pakistani water experts and professionals. Spotlight: Highlight and draw attention to pressing national and international issues. Web Links: An organized repository of links to important water resources on the World Wide Web. Announcements: Updates and focus on the domestic and global water events. Also featuring: monthly newsletter, discussion forums, articles, reports and documents, water policies and legislation.
It is hoped that the Pakistan Water Gateway will become a junction and meeting point – in cyberspace – for all the water sector organizations and experts in the country. This network and the knowledge it will generate, could become critically important for informed decision making and effective management of water resources in the country.