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ISLAMABAD: The ongoing controversy between the Sindh government and Indus River System Authority (Irsa) on water shortages is reportedly more of a political nature than based on facts.

Punjab and Sindh are both experiencing 18 percent water shortages as of May 17, 2021.

The water regulator states that a dip in supply was experienced in the river Indus from 27 April to 5 May, 2021 when both Tarbela and Chashma touched dead levels; however after May 6, 2021 the water situation began to continuously improve. An official statement issued by Irsa on May 17, 2021 states that on Sindh’s request supply to downstream Chashma has been increased by 5000 cusecs to 71,000 cusecs.

“As of May 17, 2021 both Punjab and Sindh are experiencing 18 per cent shortages each. The increase/decrease in discharges on the request of Punjab is a routine matter in Irsa in accordance with water availability,” noted the official statement. The water regulator further stated that it is distributing water strictly in accordance with the agreed share of the provinces.

Irsa maintains that it will ensure that shortages are shared equally by Punjab and Sindh by end of Kharif season 10 June, 2021.

Sindh’s Irrigation Department, an insider said, is satisfied with the water releases by Irsa but the province needs more water in June, instead of May, for its rice crop.

According to an insider, whatever is being told to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is contrary to the official correspondence between Sindh Irrigation Department and Irsa because Sindh needs water in June.

Irsa has clarified that it is distributing water between the provinces on the basis of a three-tier formula which, incidentally, Sindh opposes and has expressed its reservations at every available forum.

Water losses are another key issue due to which the released share is not reaching the tail-enders. For instance, between Taunsa and Guddu, losses are of 10,000 cusecs whereas between Sukkur and Kotri losses are of 45 to 50 percent.

Unconfirmed reports claim that irrigation departments sell water to underserved people and show higher losses and recover losses from those consumers who pay regularly.

Balochistan considers itself a victim of Sindh’s Irrigation Department and its member in Irsa has often accused Sindh of stealing its water.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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