For the past week or so, I have been somewhat bemused by a flurry of Whatsapp messages and Twitter posts on Pakistan’s impending water doomsday. I have queried many people as to what this is. What did India do that has precipitated such hysteria? And hysteria is the word. There are cartoons making the rounds, with Narendra Modi squeezing the river waters away from Pakistan. Yet another almost racist image shows African children drinking from a puddle, and promises that to be the fate of Lahore if the Kalabagh dam is not built. But no one would tell me what happened that is causing all of this excitement. To add to the mystery some friends have just responded that I should “wake up and smell the coffee”. Again, it doesn’t look like any major coffee making operation is underway on the Indus. So what is going on? After some detective work, I have been able to surmise that this is about the Kishenganga project, which has been under construction for almost two decades. But then that again begs the question as to why people are freaking out about something that has been ongoing for 30 years. There is no way that that project affects the volumetric flows of water into Pakistan, being that the project simply transfers water for electricity generation from Neelum to Jehlum, which ends up in Pakistan anyway. The project could have had an adverse effect on our own Neelum-Jehlum hydel project, which is under construction. But the Court of Arbitration in the Hague has already ruled in our favour. Indians have to modify their intake of water from Kishengana (called Neelum in Pakistan) so that it doesn’t negatively affect us. The Indians have modified their project in accordance with the ruling, to the best of my knowledge. So it’s not volumetric flows and it is not the fate of the Neelum-Jehlum. Then why the fuss? It is precisely because we have started crowd sourcing our water policy that we get into embarrassing imbroglios like the recent attempt at making a representation to the World Bank about Kishenganga As I was sitting with my mentor Jim Wescoat from the Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT) who taught me a thing or two I know about water, asked me: “If Pakistanis are so worried about water, why don’t they give resources to their Indus Commission (that negotiates with India) and Indus River System Authority (IRSA) (that regulates interprovincial water accord) to have world class researchers and human resources?” After all he argued, Pakistan needs to make the case for its water not just to the world but also to its feuding federating units. Why not invest in knowledge? As is usual in my sittings with him, I came upon a revelation thinking about that question. Pakistan probably has the highest concentration of water experts, per capita in the world. Why invest in science and knowledge if you can crowd source it? Who needs armies of scientists, social scientists, geomorphologists and hydrologists if you can get water experts off the streets and TV screens for free? Besides, don’t we have civil engineers who by luck and fate found themselves in the irrigation departments or WAPDA and are now water experts by experience? It is precisely because we have started crowd sourcing our water policy that we get into embarrassing imbroglios like the recent attempt at making a representation to the World Bank about Kishenganga. We have made representations in the past and our concerns have been addressed. Saying that India can’t do anything on the three western rivers is nonsense, especially when the Indus Waters Treaty is taken into account. The treaty — which I remind we signed on — explicitly gives permission to India to undertake regional and local scope water and hydel development projects, subject to certain design qualifications. India has often suspended, and modified projects based on our objections as long as, they were in line with the IWT. The Kishenganga project after all of its whetting and modifications based upon Pakistan’s objections is consistent with the IWT. The only thing we do by sending attorney generals to represent cases, with no technical merit to World Bank is to embarrass ourselves, and lose credibility in the eyes of the world. There is a way to avoid such embarrassments and false failures. Invest in training human resources in water and stop listening to the jingo brigade. Pakistani engineers and water professionals are as patriotic as any military or a media person. There are laudable initiatives underway in Pakistan from the Centre for Water Informatics at LUMS to Centre for Advanced Studies at Mehran University to Hissar Foundation’s Think Tank on Rational Use of Water to its University Network for Water. These initiatives should be supported and encouraged. If we are going to have a reasoned debate on water and be responsible water citizens of the world, we can’t indulge in the practice of cutting the nose to spite the face. The writer is a reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London. His research includes water resources, hazards and development geography. He also publishes and teaches on critical geographies of violence and terror Published in Daily Times, June 6th 2018.