by Abbas Wafa
The Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan is bestowed with many types of water resources including wetlands which not only play a key role in sustaining life but also make the area centre of attraction for people from around the world. But these resources are generally degrading due to lack of awareness and viable alternatives. One of the biggest problems is deterioration of water quality in the rivers and streams. Urban rivers like the Gilgit are suffering much more in this regard.
Given their mandate of protecting and conserving water and wetlands resources throughout the region, the Pakistan Wetlands Programme (PWP), WWF-Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency (GBEPA), Mass Awareness for Water Conservation and Development (MAWCD) programme of UNDP and Serena Hotel Gilgit celebrated World Water Day 2010 to raise awareness about water issues and wetlands in the region. The World Water Day is celebrated every year on 22 March.
It is a reality that an estimated 1.1 billion people rely on unsafe drinking-water sources. Therefore the UN-Water chose Clean Water for a Healthy World as theme for World Water Day 2010. The overall goal of the World Water Day on 22 March 2010 campaign was to raise the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity.
The partners celebrated a whole Water Week to highlight the theme of this year. The focus of this activity were the students, teachers, media, general public and the relevant organizations and line departments of Gilgit district.
The Water Week started on 15th march. The week long activities included awareness raising events among women and school children, water conservation projects in collaboration with Gilgit city youth clubs, Awareness Walks, panel talks on Radio about current water issues, water conservation messages on local cable networks, special articles in newspapers.
An awareness raising meeting was held as the first activity in Ameenabad Jutial with local women on 15th march. The main objective of this meeting was to raise awareness about the water issues in local women. During the meeting women asked different questions regarding the water issues and the experts answered the questions.
The experts from all partner organisations visited North Land School Konodas Gilgit and held a formal discussion session regarding the theme of WWD, 2010. This activity aimed to raise awareness amongst the students about the water and its conservation. The experts highlighted the significance of water and delivered awareness about water. After the formal discussion, an awareness raising walk was conducted during which the students displayed the banners containing awareness raising slogans.
The PWP team visited the Mountain Public School Bagarote. A formal session of presentations was also held in this school. In this session wetlands specialist Dr. Humaira Khan highlighted the theme of WWD 2010. She said Water pollution is a major problem in the global context and the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases. She discussed the most important water issues and problems affecting the country in general and Gilgit-Baltistan in particular, and their solutions which the communities could help in implementing.
During the Water Week the partners did a detailed survey of Gilgit city and identified all the broken taps and pipes of the city. On the 18 and 19th of March the partners replaced selected broken taps with the collaboration of different youth clubs of Gilgit city. The youth club members also tied up the broken pipes. This activity was held in three parts of the city. Gilgit Youth Club from main Gilgit city and Student Environment Organization from Jutial Gilgit while Khomar Youth club from Khomar participated in this activity. At the end of this activity an awareness raising walk was also held in Gardi Baagh Giglit. During the walk members of Youth Club displayed banners with awareness raising slogans. The walk ended near City Thana Gilgit. Dr. Humaira Khan from PWP/WWF-P and Khadim Hussain from GB-EPA held a formal discussion with local shopkeepers and motivated them to turn off the water taps.
The activities culminated in a seminar at Serena Hotel on March 22 in which experts from relevant organizations working on water quality issues shared their findings with the participants. Secretary Planning & Development, GB was Chief Guest whereas Heads of many government departments and NGOs, KIU faculty and students, Youth Club members and media persons attended the seminar.
Mr. Haider Raza Regional Programme Manager of MAWCD defined the objectives of WWD 2010. He highlighted the actions taken by the partners through out the water week.
Dr. Humaira Khan, PWP/WWF-P, briefed the audience about the background of WWD. She said in her speech, water quality is declining due to increasing population, lack of awareness, poor water management and climate change. She furthers said water quality is as important as the water quantity and it is crucial for the human and ecosystem health. During her presentation, she asked the audience to joint hands with the partners in the conservation of wetlands and water resources.
Mr. Shazad Hasan Shigri, Director GB-EPA, gave his presentation about drinking water quality in Gilgit city. He said according to the survey of GB-EPA drinking water quality of the city is threatened and harmful for human health and agriculture. Only 20 percent of the whole population has the access to safe water. He said that line departments need to work jointly to improve the drinking water quality according to National Drinking Water Policy.
After the presentations a question answer session was held. In this session all the speakers came on the stage and the participants and media persons asked the questions. The speakers answered all the questions from the audience and media.
A thematic poster competition was also held. The students made fabulous posters, displaying their vivid imageries and dexterity with colours. Ms. Natasha Aslam from Army Public School won the competition. Mr. Siraj Husain from Aga Khan High Secondary got 2nd position and Mr. Asif Iqbal from Army Public School got 3rd position.
The Chief Guest Secretary Planning & Development, GB Abdul Sattar distributed prizes and shields among the winners of the poster competition. He also presented the shields to members of youth clubs and media persons in appreciation of their participation and contribution to the Water Week.
The Chief Guest said the World Water Day is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of water to life. He added that water issues can be mitigated through conservation awareness and joint efforts of civil society institutions. He appreciated the organizers for such awareness raising activity. He said further such efforts are needed in Gilgit Baltistan.
At the end Khadim Hussain Assist Director GB-EPA thanked the guests, youth club members, media, students and other participants for their contribution during the whole week.