Water Management and Conflict in Pakistan

Water Management and Conflict in Pakistan

Dr. Daanish Mustafa joined us for a discussion on the nexus of water management and conflict in Pakistan. Dr. Mustafa is the Senior Lecturer in Environment, Politics, and Development in the Department of Geography at King’s College, London. He has previously served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Geography at George Mason University and Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of South Florida. Dr. Mustafa has published numerous articles based on his field research for the management of natural resources in Pakistan. He obtained his B.A. in Geography from Middlebury College, Vermont, his M.A. in Geography from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Dr. Mustafa began by identifying two principal security threats in Pakistan: (1) technological and social transformations leading to such effects as differential land and water access for locals and even alienation among the youth, and (2) failures of governance such as poor education and legal systems. Thus he finds the basis of violence to be both material and ideological.

Extending these premises to the water and security nexus, Dr. Mustafa discussed his field studies in Balochistan and  Punjab. In these areas, water is not just a necessity for survival; it is also a basis for livelihood, culture, identity, and community. The communally owned karez aqueducts were once the primary source of groundwater – and a good source of communal interaction – until the government began subsidizing tubewells for individuals who could afford them. This breakdown of social capital strained community cohesion while increasing isolation and social frustration, a combination which can often lead to violence and extremism.

Dr. Mustafa answered questions on the role of the local NGO community, flaws in local legal dispute mechanisms, the problem of land adjudication, possibilities for guiding international aid towards water management, and ways of countering local media propaganda on international aid.