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ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Water Resources said on Thursday that the Attorney General for Pakistan, will recommend formulation of a Committee of water experts under the Inquiry Commission Act for resolution of water disputes among provinces, if he reckons there is any legal discrepancy in the response of provincial governments.

This was conveyed by a senior official of Water Resources Ministry, Mehar Ali Shah, at a meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Water Resources, presided over by Nawab Yousuf Talpur through a video link. Irrigation Minister, Punjab and officials of provincial governments, IRSA members, and Wapda also attended the meeting.

The committee was informed that after giving due consideration to the AG’s report, the Council of Common Interests (CCI), in its 41st meeting held on December 23, 2019 abstained from ratifying it and instead decided to set up a new committee, comprising relevant technical experts from federal and provincial governments, Attorney General and the respective Advocates Generals of the four provinces for fair distribution of water among the provinces.

The following Sindh's objections apropos distribution of the waters of Indus river and tributaries among provinces by Indus River System Authority (IRSA), CCI, in its 42nd meeting decided to constitute a new committee under the Attorney General to look into possible measures for fair distribution of waters.

During the first meeting the committee held on December 22, 2020, it was decided that each province will submit its written stance up to January 5, 2021, which they submitted a couple of days ago.

The representative of Water Resources Ministry informed the Standing Committee that two provinces have difference of opinion on water distribution mechanism. Sindh wants distribution of water among provinces in accordance with Para 2 of the Water Accord 1991. However, Punjab is of the view that there is not only Para 2 which is to be considered for water distribution but there is also Para 14 B in the Accord, on distribution of water.

According to Water Resources Ministry, IRSA addressed this situation (differences) internally by way of making a three tier formula. The Punjab Government noted that the application of three-tier formula is in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Water Accord 1991 while Sindh wants distribution of water on the basis of Para 2 which disregards para 14 B. Water Resources Ministry's representative clarified that Attorney General did not ask for answers but sought opinion from provinces as to the legal deficiency in water distribution formula.

"The AG asked provinces to propose whatever they feel are legal questions in the water distribution mechanism as it is a purely technical matter rather than a legal one," he quoted the Attorney General as saying.

If there is any legal inconsistency, AG would reply to provinces from a legal perspective. However, if there is no such questions, he would refer the matter back to CCI with the request to constitute another committee under the Inquiry Commission Act comprising technical people.

The Committee was apprised about inspection of Pat Feeder Canal and Kirthar Canal which supply water to Balochistan. An inspection team has found that water tabling mechanism of Balochistan was more accurate than Sindh at Pat Feeder Canal whereas at Kirthar Canal, tabling mechanisms of both Sindh and Balochistan were inaccurate. Member IRSA (Balochistan) informed the meeting that Balochistan was being supplied 42 per cent less water than its share by the Sindh Government.

The Committee was also informed that Warsak Dam is filled with silt and now it is considered as run of the river project.

Replying to a question as to why the government is not raising the dam like other dams, Member IRSA (KP) stated that firstly the project is on the border with Afghanistan and the latter may raise objections and secondly, there are also military installations there.

Chairman IRSA gave a presentation to the committee about water availability situation in the country. Presently, reservoirs are in a good position in comparison to the last 10 year data when river inflows at rim stations remained less than the year’s average.

Keeping in view the present trend of inflows and reservoirs storage the irrigation supplies will be available with minor adjustments during the remaining Rabi season. Only 2 per cent shortage is expected during the remaining Rabi season. The Committee was further informed that similar to the current Rabi season, it is estimated that there will be only 1 per cent shortage during coming Kharif season 2021.

Contrary to that, next Rabi season 2021-22, is likely to witness an estimated shortage of about 18 per cent for irrigation supplies. It is expected that there will be about 6 per cent shortage during next year 2021-22.

Beside others, the meeting was also attended by Ali Nawaz Awan,Ch. Javed Iqbal Warraich, Ms Naureen Farooq Ibrahim, Ms Nuzhat Pathan, Khalid Magsi, Ch. Hamid Hameed and Ch. Raiz-ul-Haq.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021