Secretary Clinton Announces Pakistan Water Program

U.S. aid projects focus on city water systems, clean drinking water, dam construction and irrigation.

Islamabad MapWhile meeting in Islamabad with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the water projects that will be included in a five-year, $US7.5 billion aid package to the south Asian country.

The money was authorized as part of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, which tripled non-military assistance to Pakistan. Since President Barak Obama signed the legislation last October, the two countries have been in discussions about what projects the money will fund.

Of the proposals announced Monday, $US270 million will be allocated to the water program, according to an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He said the projects were chosen in consultation with the Pakistani government, based on what would most immediately improve the lives of Pakistanis.

“I have to confess to you, water was not originally on our list,” Clinton said in Islamabad, according to State Department transcripts. “But after meeting with so many Pakistanis in October, not only government officials but so many others in the different settings I was privileged to be part of, water moved to the top of the list. Water and electricity, over and over again, were mentioned as the needs that the Pakistani people wished to see addressed.”

Pakistan is in the midst of an Indus River water dispute regarding dams being constructed by neighboring India, and an internecine spat between its own provinces over irrigation deliveries.

The focus areas of the water program include:

  • Building or rebuilding the municipal water systems (storage, distribution and treatment) for Peshawar and Jacobabad
  • Working with local governments in southern Punjab to provide safe drinking water and improved sanitation
  • Completing two hydroelectric projects: the Satpara dam and Gomal Zam dam
  • Providing drip irrigation technology for farmers in each of Pakistan’s four provinces

The aid also includes projects in agriculture, economic reforms, energy, healthcare and lines of credit for small- and medium-sized businesses.

This U.S. assistance comes on top of significant investments made by Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority. In 2001 the government agency announced the $US33-billion Vision 2025 plan to develop the country’s water resources, a plan that emphasizes large infrastructure: dams, canals, hydropower facilities and drainage canals.

Meanwhile the need for smart water investment is great. According to Running on Empty: Pakistan’s Water Crisis, a series of essays published by the Woodrow Wilson Center, Pakistan loses two-thirds of its water supply to leaks and poor transmission in its canal system; moreover, its two largest dams have lost 25 percent of their storage capacity because of siltation. Overlaying the technical problems are concerns about climate change reducing glacial runoff in the Indus River, the country’s agricultural lifeline.

Source: U.S. State Department

Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton

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