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ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Water Resources Tuesday proposed alteration to Water Accord 1991 to resolve differences between provinces on the mechanism of water distribution.

This proposal came from Secretary Ministry of Water Resources. Dr Shahzad Khan Bangash at a meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Water Resources presided over by Nawab Yousuf Talpur.

A seven-member team of Sindh government, comprising Secretary Irrigation, Member Irsa, Chief Engineer Kotri Barrage opposed Three Tier water distribution formula as illegal and urged for the implementation of the Accord as per its spirit.

"There appears a discord in the Accord, we should not be hesitant to admit that there may be shortcomings in the Accord and we should revisit it. The Standing Committee, which is a recommendatory body, should recommend that the Water Accord may be submitted to the Council of Common Interests (CCI)," Secretary Water Resources added.

He further argued that Irsa, which was established thirty years ago, should be tasked to formulate a comprehensive water management mechanism to avoid differences amongst the provinces.

One of the representatives of Sindh government stated that the share of Sindh and Punjab are 50 per cent each, however, Balochistan and KP are being used to defeat Sindh in Irsa through majority vote. Balochistan's Member Irsa, Abdul Hameed Mengal protested at these remarks.

"How we can be side-lined with votes of smaller provinces, when we are proprietor of 50 per cent of water share," Sindh representative maintained.

Opening flood canals in Punjab will worsen water shortage in Sindh: provincial irrigation minister

Balochistan informed the Committee that the province is not being given its water share by Sindh. The Committee member, Khalid Magsi, also raised the issue of acute water shortage in the province, maintaining that his province is getting adulterated water for drinking purposes.

The Sindh government's team further maintained that the province has no objection to the Water Accord 1991, suggesting that those provinces should approach the CCI which have a different view in this regard.

Mir Munawwar Talpur, MNA, who held a meeting with the team of Sindh government prior to starting the Standing Committee meeting, demanded closure of Taunsa-Panjnad (TP) canal which was supported by officials of Sindh government.

However, Chairman Irsa, Rao Irshad Ali Khan, who is also Member Punjab in Irsa, argued that Punjab is getting its share through TP to feed those areas which are located on rivers given to India in the World Bank brokered agreement.

He said, this year, available water will be around 85 MAF against 103 MAF in 2018. He contended that shortages are being shared between Sindh and Punjab on the basis of Three Tier formula based on historical use. This was the middle way to resolve disputes among provinces.

He maintained that since the issue of water dispute has been referred to the CCI, whatever decision it will take Irsa will implement it. Irsa Member Sindh, Zahid Junejo challenged the shortage figures of Chairman Irsa, saying that figures shared by Chairman Irsa with the Committee are not accurate.

He said, Sindh wants distribution of water as per the Accord 1991, not according to any other formula. Taking part in discussion, Khawaja Asif said that water shortage is an international phenomenon due to climate change, and suggested that Pakistan should find an acceptable solution to this issue as figures shared in the meeting are very alarming.

He added that Pakistanis waste water including in agriculture, adding that National Water Policy was approved in 2018 with a consensus but it has not been implemented. He further noted that lakhs of acres of land have already been lost to the sea.

Looming crisis of water scarcity over Pakistan; Challenges, implication and way forward

Ali Nawaz Awan, MNA, suggested that a bipartisan water expert be invited to the Committee meeting to suggest a mechanism based on available water. And representatives of Irsa and provinces should not be invited to the meeting.

A heated debate was also witnessed between Wapda and Sindh government's representatives on feasibility study of Sindh Barrage. The representatives of Sindh outrightly opposed construction of Sindh Barrage, arguing that the project is not feasible. Chief Engineer Kotri Barrage said that water availability at this barrage has already reduced to 17 cusecs per annum from 85 cusecs.

Wapda officials informed the committee that feasibility study of Sindh Barrage will be completed by next month, which will be shared with Sindh government to incorporate its viewpoint. Representatives of Sindh maintained that three feasibility studies have already been conducted on the barrage.

The Committee decided that Wapda will submit feasibility report of barrage before it, which will be discussed in the presence of Sindh government's representatives. According to a press release Standing Committee on Water Resources took notice of delay in construction of Naulong Dam.

The Standing Committee was informed that the funds released for Naulong Dam were deducted from the account of the Dam by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) due to which the Naulong Dam could not be constructed till today.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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