Countries situated along the coastal belt in the region need to set up a fund to speed up research on the use of sea water for agriculture, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal suggested during his address at the opening day of the Fourth International Conference for the Use of Space Technology for Water Management on Monday.
The five-day conference has been arranged in Islamabad by Pakistan’s premiere institution on space research, Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), in collaboration with the Inter-Islamic Network on Space Science and Technology (ISNET).
Iqbal said that Muslim-majority countries were lagging behind in space technology and stressed the need for greater attention to the field to help accelerate efforts towards the achievement of sustainable development goals.
“Water is the lifeline for agriculture and economy in developing countries. Improved management of water resources is such a critical issue that the World Economic Forum has named water scarcity as the top global challenge two years in a row,” the planning minister said.
He noted that the urban population in developing countries was expected to double in the next 20 to 25 years, putting greater pressure on reservoirs supply water to these areas. “The need for integrated approaches to managing water supply, sanitation, drainage, and flood management will increase,” he said.
Iqbal said that across the globe space technology was guiding all aspects of economic activity. “Technology applications have proven time and again to be cost effective and accurate in many areas. The use of satellite technology can enable us to use our water resources more efficiently. At this juncture, it is imperative to raise awareness amongst policymakers to employ space technology in this and other allied fields,” he said.
The five-day conference has brought together more than 100 participants including space scientists from the United States, China, Australia, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.
Speaking on the opening day, Suparco chairman Qaiser Anees Khurrum said, “Increasing stress on freshwater resources brought about by ever-rising demand and profligate use by a growing global pollution should be taken as a serious concern.”
Highlighting Suparco’s role in national development efforts, Khurrum said that the commission had developed geospatial systems for irrigation management, glaciers mapping and monitoring, flood vulnerability assessment, crop damage assessment, and sea water intrusion mapping. “These projects are helping provide accurate information for timely decisions on conservation of our resources.”
Later, SUPARCO member Imran Iqbal shared findings of an international study, according to which by 2050 the per capita availability of water across the globe will decline by half of its current level.
Read more: Diversifying Pakistan’s Water Resources
“Some areas are already suffering an acute shortage of water, causing aridity and drought and resulting in famine and hunger,” said Iqbal, while reading out a statement on behalf of the ISNET executive director. He added that more than 1.4 billion people in developing countries lacked access to clean and safe drinking water, whereas, more than 450 million people were facing water shortage.
“At the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), we work to bring the benefits of space to everyone, everywhere. Considering that humankind must do more to preserve our precious water resources, it is of utmost importance that we raise awareness on the use of space technologies to address water-related issues. This conference also demonstrates how space can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal VI on clean water and sanitation,” said UNOOSA director Simonetta Di Pippo.
Earlier conferences in the series took place in Rabat, Morocco, in 2014; in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2011; and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2008.