Islamabad/Lahore, 16 September 2022: Experts participating in a media exposure field visit informed the journalists that groundwater recharge wells are a cost-effective nature-based solution (NbS) to revive groundwater aquifers and mitigate the risk of urban flooding.
The media visit was organized by the Institute of Urbanism (IoU), International Water Management Institute Pakistan (IWMI Pakistan), and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (hbs), focusing on harvesting rainwater for urban flood management. The team visited various rainwater harvesting sites in the federal capital and Lahore.
Addressing the media, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), Dr. Muhammad Ashraf said that the water crisis was a serious issue for Pakistan, when it comes to the major metropolitan cities such as Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi.
“The groundwater recharge solutions are the need of the country. Especially in the prevailing floods that have occurred in an unprecedented fashion,” said Dr. Ashraf.
He also said that Pakistan was facing environmental degradation, as in one season the country was facing dryness with less rainfall and after few months there were floods.
Dr. Ashraf further said, “We have to increase water storage at every level and need to develop large, medium and small dams, where possible.”
Rainwater storage solutions such as artificial lakes in housing societies or artificial groundwater recharge wells can help recharge the groundwater, he added.
He also informed that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) was establishing 100 recharge wells and 20 monitoring stations from its own resources in the federal capital and that 50 recharge wells have already been established.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. Mohsin Hafeez, Country Representative – Pakistan and Regional Representative – Central Asia, IWMI, said that the latest IPCC report has highlighted a surge in heatwaves and heavy precipitation in South Asia due to human-induced activities, and both phenomena have occurred this year in Pakistan.
According to him, “It was the worst flood due to riverine and hill torrents flood, which was exacerbated by ill planned housing societies, construction on riverbeds, and encroachments on water flows.
Dr. Hafeez further added, “Climate change is having a major impact on water resources, as there is drought for nine months and rainfall for three months in Pakistan. Unfortunately, we have insufficient infrastructure, as no major dams have been constructed in the past 50 years.”
He mentioned that the water recharge level in Islamabad was 130-150 mm in 1990 which had remained the same in 2021 but the rate of urbanization has substantially increased.
While highlighting the contribution of artificial groundwater recharge well towards groundwater replenishment at Kachnar Park site, he said, “Up to 1.9 million gallons of water has been added to the aquifer against the rainfall of 589 mm from May – September 2022 alone. Furthermore, a rise in the water table of 4.8 meters has been recorded.”
Sardar Khan Zimri, Deputy Director General, CDA said that rooftop rainwater harvesting sites have been included in the bylaws for construction of new houses to harvest rainwater at the local level. He told that 50 recharge wells out of 100 have been completed in the federal capital. The CDA is also proposing legislation on recharge wells for new housing societies, so that groundwater recharge is ensured in Islamabad.
The media persons also visited the artificial groundwater recharge site jointly developed by IWMI Pakistan and PCRWR. According to Dr. Mohsin Hafeez, Country Representative – Pakistan and Regional Representative – Central Asia, IWMI, “This artificial groundwater recharge site has been equipped with state-of-the-art technology, such as water gauge along with automatic data drivers after undergoing a comprehensive study on hydrological modelling of Islamabad.”
On the second day of the media visit, journalists visited various rainwater harvesting underground tanks in Lahore that were state-of-the-art facilities by WASA to store rainwater to prevent urban flooding in the vulnerable areas of Lahore. The water stored in the underground water tanks was later used for watering greenbelt plantations by Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA). The first site at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lawrence Road has the capacity to store 1.4 million gallons, with a catchment area of 30 acres and a ponding area of three acres. It was established at the cost of Rs. 140 million.
There were two more underground water tanks currently under construction at Sheranwala Gate and Alhamra Arts Council.
The participating journalists were sensitized on the significance of groundwater and the need to use this precious resource sustainably.