ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN: Top Pakistani bureaucrats, policymakers and experts discussed water governance and disaster management solutions with their European counterparts during a study trip to Belgium and the Netherlands earlier in November. The week-long delegation visit was organized by Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Pakistan in collaboration with HSF Brussels and included high-level meetings, field visits and excursions on the European, national, regional and local levels.
The study trip aimed to improve the bilateral understanding of challenges related to water governance with a particular focus on climate change and disaster management in light of the devastating floods in Pakistan earlier this year. The key sessions included:
- Disaster management inside and outside the European Union (EU) at the European Commission’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre,
- Weather forecast, risk management and early warning systems at the Royal Meteorological Institute Belgium,
- National water management, flood protection policy and transport infrastructure at the Dutch national agency Rijkswaterstaat,
- Water cycle in Brussels, waste water management and water quality assurance along with a visit of the Sewer Museum,
- International cooperation in the field of water management, risk mitigation of inundations at the International Scheldt Commission and at the controlled inundation area of Kruibeke, Belgium,
- Early warning systems, flood management and climate adaptation and a guided tour on the world-famous Maeslantkering barrier in Netherlands, and
- Flood resilience and disaster management at the Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands.
Aside from these technical sessions, the delegates also discussed international cooperation on a wide range of topics related to climate change and non-traditional security challenges with European interlocutors. These included:
- The international work of HSF with Mr. Markus Ferber, Member of the European Parliament and HSF Chairman,
- Political relations between the EU and Pakistan in the field of climate mitigation with Mr. Michael Gahler, Member of the European Parliament, European People's Party (EPP) Group Coordinator of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and EPP Group Spokesman for Foreign Affairs, and
- With H.E. Mr. Asad Majeed Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU,
- EU-Pakistan relations with a focus on climate change and food security at the International Affairs and Climate Finance, Bilateral Affairs Division, European Commission, and
- The security impact of climate change and critical infrastructure with Mr. Michael Ruehle, Head, Climate and Energy Security Section, Emerging Security Challenges Division, NATO.
Moreover, the delegates met with representatives from the European External Action Service, the European Institute for Asian Studies, HSF Brussels, Deltares, NATO HQ, the European Commission, and with media representatives from Belgium.
The Pakistani expert delegates included:
- Mr. Abid Hussain Shah Hussainy, Senior Specialist/ General Manager, Environment & Social Safeguard Division and Principal, Al-Jazari Water and Sanitation Academy, The Urban Unit, Planning and Development Department, Government of Punjab,
- Dr. Hassan Abbas, Hydrologist, Founding Member, ZiZAK Pvt. Ltd.,
- Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba, Environmental Expert and Author, Independent Consultant,
- Mr. Mohammad Ehsan-ul-haq Leghari, Project Coordinator, Project Coordination and Monitoring Unit, Planning and Development department, Government of Sindh,
- Mr. Nasir Ghafoor Khan, Chief Engineer South/ Director General, Irrigation Department KP Water Resources Regulatory Authority, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and
- Mr. Syed Bashir Ahmed Agha, Director General, Agricultural Engineering Department, Government of Balochistan.
The delegates were accompanied by several HSF staff from Pakistan and Brussels, including Dr. Steffen Kudella, Resident Representative, HSF Pakistan, and Dr. Thomas Leeb, Director, HSF Brussels.