Dams, social enterprises and climate change
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s idea of raising money for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam by asking people for money has been questioned as ‘charity’ and later clarified as ‘self-help’. Self-help is the best form of sustainable development that the government can invest in at this very crucial time in the history of Pakistan. But apart from the dam, there are other self-help opportunities to create interventions that can be adopted that will not only help create water security but will help in creating economic empowerment opportunities as well.
During the discussion at a policy dialogue organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute I was invited to speak at, it was assumed by one esteemed participant that social enterprises are merely SMEs, “but yes they too can contribute to the economy.” My ears pricked up while hearing the comparison between the two and I elaborated that social enterprises are not your regular small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Social enterprises can be used to tackle diverse and gigantic problems, such as unemployment, empowerment of women and particularly, climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. Particularly, the last is an issue that will touch all of us in several ways, including water shortage, food insecurity, irregular droughts and floods, mass migration of people and subsequent rising inflation. I went on to add that two issues of development are not going anywhere in the coming years: terrorism and climate change.
However, social enterprises still have not caught the government’s attention and it is time that this emerging new sector be fully explored as well, in order to gauge its full potential for climate change adaptation by individuals and/or the larger corporate sector.
Pakistan has installed electricity generation capacity of 28,704MW as of May 30, 2018 and the average demand stands at 25,389MW whereas the shortfall ranges between 4,000 and 5,000MW. Building the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is now of paramount importance.
If it takes years for our environment to erode, it will also take years for it to be salvaged. Therefore, the adaptation measures and management of the effects of climate change must be addressed in a multi-pronged way simultaneously.
The dam might take a number of years to construct but to support the government and apex court initiative, the effort must be supplemented in the form of better water management systems being actually implemented, the National Climate Change Policy 2012, the National Water Policy 2018 and the environmental laws being implemented in letter and in spirit in line with international commitments such as the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC1997 and the Paris Agreement 2015. For all this, the state mechanisms must be in place to allow for laws and policies to be implemented.
Equally important is the awareness of the masses on how to manage water themselves and how to give out early warning flood detection messages within their communities. Additionally, government institutions must facilitate the development of social enterprises aimed at addressing water, food and energy security in order to contribute towards the management of the impending water crisis.
On a recent visit to Nepal, I was taken on a tour of the Knowledge Park at Godavri where several conservation and water management measures were put up as models for observation. One method, which was extremely old yet exciting, was that of rainwater harvesting on the roof tops of houses. So while we must emphasis the need for crop pattern change, bio-saline agriculture and water re-use practices, we can also promote the adoption of such small measures such as domestic rainwater harvesting to make full use of water wherever it becomes available. It can, in fact, be an idea for a social enterprise that can thrive in this area.
Building dams must be complimented by these other ‘self-help’ sustainable social enterprise initiatives, whereby individuals can create business models around the community needs of food, water and energy security. Development initiatives must move in a holistic manner in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, to which Pakistan is a signatory.