ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Standing Com-mittee on Water Resources on Monday decided to constitute a Sub-Committee to monitor water distribution in at least three provinces while provincial representatives challenged each other's claims and Sindh asked for the imposition of water emergency.
Presided over by Nawab Yosuf Talpur, MNA, through video link the committee members discussed water issues for more than four hours and backed the stance of their provinces instead of taking an impartial position. The government of Punjab was represented by Minister for Irrigation Mohsin Leghari, who proposed resolution of water issues on technical basis instead of on political basis arguing that it will worsen the situation.
The role and competence of Indus River System Authority (IRSA), whose website is still showing Faisal Vawda as its minister, was also criticised by some of the committee members as having failed to satisfy provinces.
Mir Munawar Talpur, a committee member from Sindh, said that Sindh, especially Thatha and Badin, are facing substantial water shortages.
Member IRSA, Sindh, Zahid Junejo, claimed that Sindh is facing 44 per cent water shortage at Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages, whereas Member IRSA, Balochistan maintained that his province is facing 60 per cent water shortage stating that water shortage is 39 and 60 per cent in Guddu and Kotri barrage respectively.
Member Irsa Sindh stated that Sindh is facing 44 per cent water shortage while Punjab is facing 9 per cent shortage with Balochistan facing 16 per cent shortage.
He raised objection on opening of link canals, saying that link canal can only be opened when there is surplus water and additionally Sindh must be consulted prior to opening the link canal. He said Sindh is not being provided water to meet its requirements, adding that when Sindh will get its share of water, then it will give to Balochistan in accordance with its share. He demanded that a water emergency be imposed.
Chairman IRSA questioned when water is in short supply for agricultural purposes in the country why is it being released from Kotri barrage.
Member IRSA, Sindh claimed that 434 cusecs of water is being released from Kotri barrage which is for drinking purposes and is not going into the sea.
Mir Munawar Talpur stated that Rainy and Chashma canals have to be closed in case of shortage of water in Sindh.
Chairman Standing Committee urged concerned stakeholders to ensure that water distribution in provinces be as per their share. He proposed appointment of inspectors on all canals to monitor water flows adding that Punjab and Sindh should look into water losses in coordination with IRSA.
Khalid Magsi, a committee member from Balochistan and former Minister for Water Resources, said that water situation requires that emergency be declared, urging Sindh to give water to Balochistan according to its share. He also requested Punjab to be kinder on water issues and ignore what is written in the water accord books.
Chairman IRSA, Rao Irshad Ali Khan, stated that 90,600 cusecs of water is being released to Punjab today (May 24, 2021) whereas Sindh is getting 84,000 cusecs of water.
"Both Punjab and Sindh are getting water with 23 per cent shortage in their share," he said, adding that IRSA releases full share for Balochistan. He said, cumulative water shortage will be 17 per cent till June 10, 2021. Chairman IRSA also revealed that during a visit to Guddu and Sukkur barrages there was inaccurate water data to show less water. Member IRSA Sindh argued that he was taken into confidence at the time of inspection and reporting.
Member IRSA, Balochistan, Abdul Hameed Mengal, who always raises his voice against injustice by Sindh, said that Balochistan's survival has now become difficult as his province is being given 75 per cent less water than its due share.
Chairman IRSA informed the committee that Wapda has prepared PC-1 for installation of telemetry system to ensure transparent distribution of water in the country whereas IRSA has also accorded approval to the telemetry system. He said Wapda will present PC-1 at an appropriate forum.
Joint Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, Syed Mehar Ali Shah, told the committee that a study will be conducted to select technology and point out places where telemetry system will be installed. He further contended that the main reason for the failure of previous telemetry system was nonexistence of calibration.
The officials of Irrigation Department Punjab informed the Committee that Punjab is provided insufficient funds for irrigation projects.
The issue of Chira dam also came under discussion, and Ali Nawaz Awan, SAPM on CDA, noted that the Punjab government is doing nothing with respect to this dam. He said, Pindi-Islamabad are facing water shortage but Punjab government does not want to work on Chira dam. He further stated that Rawalpindi would not have had any water if Ayub Khan had not constructed the dam.
The officials of Ministry of Water Resources informed the committee that Punjab government has not sent any paper work to include this dam in the PSDP. Now, meeting of Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) has been convened on May 26 to finalise PSDP for 2021-22.
Irrigation Minister Punjab, Mohsin Leghari stated that feasibility study of Chira Dam has not been completed, adding that a dam has to be constructed not just a wall.
Commenting on the claim of Ali Nawaz Awan, Punjab Irrigation Minister stated that the MNA has no knowledge of provincial government's development work adding that Punjab government is working on 20 small dams.
The Standing Committee was informed that the Canal System of Punjab is the biggest Canal System of the country. But the losses of the water in the Punjab are only fifteen percent of total losses of the country. But after Punjab 85% water losses are recorded between the area of Punjnand and Kotri. The Standing Committee was also informed that thousands of cusecs of water is being lost in the country, regularly.
The Standing Committee expressed its grave concerns regarding the huge water losses and directed that Irrigation Department, Punjab, Irrigation Department, Sindh, and IRSA should sit together and examine the reasons of the water losses.
The Standing Committee also directed that IRSA may deploy Inspectors for spot checking to control water losses and misreporting. The Standing Committee was informed that after Water Apportionment Accord 1991, the water was distributed accordingly.
After detailed deliberation the Standing Committee directed IRSA to ensure distribution of water among different provinces under Section 2(B) of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991.
Besides others, the meeting was attended by Ali Nawaz Awan, Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, Ch. Shokat Ali Bhatti, Dr. Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla, Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik, Ch. Javed Iqbal Warraich, Khalid Hussain Magsi, Ch. Muhammad Hamid Hameed, Riaz-ul-Haq and Mir Munawwar Ali Talpur. Saleh Muhammad, Parliamentary Secretary for Water Resources, and Secretaries, Irrigation Department, Punjab and Sindh, attended the meeting through video link. The meeting was also attended by the Chairman, IRSA, Director General, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director General, Pakistan Meteorological Department and senior civil officers of the Ministry of Water Resources and Wapda.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021