NEXUS GAINS at Pakistan Water Week 2023: Session summaries

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Pakistan Water Week 2023 was held in Islamabad from 4–6 December on the theme of ‘Transformative pathways for water and food systems in a climate-resilient Pakistan.’ The event brought together water management experts, agriculturalists, government officials, and business leaders from across the world, to present and discuss practical strategies to tackle water scarcity and enhance skills and knowledge.

The CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains organized several sessions throughout the conference; the recordings are available to watch via the links below.

Transformative pathways for water and food systems in a climate-resilient Pakistan

Water–energy–food nexus modeling: A fad or the future?

Thematic Area 1, Session 2

Understanding the intricate interplay between water, energy, and food systems is essential for promoting synergy, analyzing trade-offs, and ensuring the sustainability of investments in water, energy, and food security, particularly within the context of a changing climate. This session underscores the merits of integrated modeling frameworks by presenting case studies from different countries under NEXUS Gains. The session concludes with a substantive discussion that aligns scientific insights with policymaking and enhancing collaboration, to tackle climate extremes and secure the future of these critical water, energy, and food systems. The goal is to enhance water, food, energy, and environmental outcomes, especially as we face the escalating challenges posed by climate extremes.

Opportunities and challenges posed by the WEFE approach: Implications for the Indus Basin

Thematic Area 2, Session 2

Critical challenges facing water, energy, food, and ecosystems (WEFE) are intricately intertwined. However, national policies, institutional architecture, and supporting technical capacity treat these issues in fragmented, sectoral ways. This results in inefficient investments that fail to account for potential trade-offs or synergies stemming from an integrated management of these resources. Furthermore, significant capacity enhancement of younger and female participants in WEFE nexus sectors in technical, social, and gender analysis must be encouraged in parallel to any institutional reforms.

This session explores the opportunities and challenges associated with institutionalizing an integrated WEFE nexus approach within the Government of Pakistan and related training and educational institutions. Government and academic representatives from across the water, energy, agriculture, and environment sectors discuss the capacities and institutional change required to bring a nexus approach to life. The session supports a shared vision of capacity and institutional strengthening strategies to improve the integrated management of WEFE resources for more sustainable growth and inclusive development.

Environmental flows are necessary to restore the ecosystem of the Indus Basin

Thematic Area 2, Session 8

Environmental flows (e-flows) are defined as the quantity, timing, and quality of freshwater flows and levels necessary to sustain aquatic ecosystems. These in turn support human cultures, economies, sustainable livelihoods, and wellbeing. One of the great rivers of the world, the Indus River supports many millions people, many of whom are dependent on its ecosystem services. As water is progressively withdrawn, it is increasingly necessary to set e-flow targets for the Indus and integrate these into basin management plans so that flows do not decline, and people can still benefit. This session reviews the practice of e-flow determination and how the management of the Indus would benefit from e-flow implementation under NEXUS Gains.

Policy dialogue on transformative pathways for water, food, and land systems in a socially inclusive and climate resilient Pakistan

Thematic Area 3, Session 1

Pakistan stands at the forefront of multiple crises, as it grapples with water scarcity, food insecurity, economic instability, and the looming risk of conflicts. In the face of these pressing issues, the time for political action is now. This session convenes senators and ministry representatives in an open and constructive dialogue on improving Pakistan’s policies related to water and food systems in the context of climate change. Discussions focus on aligning existing policies, engaging diverse stakeholders, and enhancing policy considerations for greater socioeconomic impacts. The session also explores strategies for policymakers to collaborative on climate resilient solutions.

Sustainable aquifer management: Challenges and opportunities

Thematic Area 3, Session 2

Widespread over-extraction of groundwater has led to the rapid depletion of aquifers, outpacing their natural recharge rates in many regions across the globe. This overexploitation places immense strain on groundwater resources, threatening water security for agriculture, industry, communities, and the environment. Simultaneously, contamination – including from industrial discharges and agricultural runoff – poses a significant risk to water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Balancing the often-competing demands of stakeholders, from large-scale agricultural enterprises to local communities, is a multifaceted and contentious challenge. Climate change further exacerbates these issues, altering precipitation patterns and increasing the unpredictability of aquifer recharge rates.

This session sheds light on the paramount challenges facing sustainable aquifer management and provides insights into the diverse tools and strategies employed for preserving aquifer health. A panel discussion explores how emerging technologies, policy interventions, and legislation can contribute to more effective aquifer management.

Utilizing water accounting insights and big data for enhancing agriculture productivity in Pakistan

Thematic Area 3, Session 5

This session delves into the multifaceted challenges of water scarcity in Pakistan, stemming from natural and anthropogenic factors. The discussion underscores the critical role of water accounting insights and big data applications in addressing these challenges, particularly within the agricultural sector. Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate-related events, such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves, is highlighted, emphasizing the urgent need for robust data-driven approaches for resilient water resource management. The session explores international best practices and potential solutions tailored to Pakistan’s unique circumstances. It fosters collaborative discussions with the global community to enhance agriculture productivity through innovative technologies and water accounting strategies.

Irrigation through sun: Can we control the heat to sustain our aquifers?

Thematic Area 3, Session 8

This session debates the modes and mechanisms for the sustainable use of solar irrigation in Pakistan. In recent years, solar pumping technology has emerged as an alternative to diesel and electric pumps. However, water professionals in Pakistan express concerns that converting pumps to photovoltaic solar may result in indiscriminate pumping, potentially leading to further groundwater depletion.

While Pakistan lacks a specific policy on solar technology for groundwater pumping in agriculture, several policies have implications for its use. The governance and management of water resources are devolved to provinces, each pursuing different trajectories to implement the National Water Policy. All provincial governments have planned and/or launched subsidized solar irrigation pump schemes, often coupled with High Efficiency Irrigation Systems, particularly in Punjab and Sindh. Although extensive groundwater use has provided protection against drought, addressed waterlogging issues, and increased cropping intensity, over abstraction has led to aquifer depletion in some areas and salinity in others.

Pakistan Water Week was organized by the International Water Management Institute in partnership with the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources through the Ministry of Water Resources and support from UNICEF and GIZ Pakistan.

Further reading


Header image: A farmer plants rice in Pakistan. Photo by Fasseh Shams/IWMI.

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