About the Author: Rick Snelsire serves as Spokesperson at U.S. Embassy Islamabad.
As a part of the Strategic Dialogue in different sectors, Pakistan and U.S. officials met on June 17 in Islamabad to discuss the management of Pakistan's water resources and to underscore the commitment of the United States to a long-term partnership with Pakistan, focused on improving the lives of the Pakistani people, institution capacities and regulatory authorities dealing with drinking and irrigation water.
This is the first meeting of the Water Working Group of the U.S.- Pakistan Strategic Dialogue; the group plans to meet again in six months. Water management issues were identified as a priority during the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State to Pakistan in October 2009 and were elevated as a key area for increased cooperation during the U.S.-Pakistan Dialogue held in Washington, DC in March 2010.
The Government of Pakistan was co-led by Mr. Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan's Minister of Water and Power, Mr. Kamal Majidulla, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Water Resources and Agriculture, Mr. Shahid Rafi, Secretary Ministry of Water and Power, and Mr. Shakil Durrani, Chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority. The U.S. Delegation was co-led by Ms. Maria Otero, Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the Department of State, and Mr. David Lipton, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Economics at the National Security Council.
Both sides discussed the significance of water security, the creation of a water regulatory authority and the sustainability of efficient infrastructure. Representatives from the Governments of Azad Jammu Kashmir, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, Punjab and Sindh respectively discussed water management, cost recovery on operation and maintenance charges, and maintenance of irrigation structures within and among the provinces. The U.S. side discussed the experience of the United States in the balancing state and federal interest in water management, as well as other countries' experiences in addressing water management challenges. Undersecretary Otero and Senior Director Lipton invited a group of Pakistani water experts from the federal and provincial governments to visit the United States in the fall to meet with water specialists.
The delegations presented major policy topics in the spirit of developing mutually agreed priorities for a water sector partnership between the United States and Pakistan. They discussed river watershed management, conservation, water inefficiency and irrigation, safe drinking water and sanitation, water productivity and quality, sustainable infrastructure and cost recovery, water storages, integrated water management and the effects of global warming and regional climate change. They also exchanged views on future cooperation with multilateral development banks and the private sectors to improve the management of water resources in Pakistan.