- Country’s water shortage stands at 38%, surpassing government’s projection of 22%
ISLAMABAD: Sindh and Punjab Wednesday hurled accusations against each other on the current arrangement of water releases and water distribution mechanism as the country faces a water crisis with a shortage of 38 percent instead of the projected 22 percent.
This unpleasant scene was witnessed at a meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Water Resources, which met informally due to lack of quorum. Nawab Yousuf Talpur presided over the meeting with only one committee member Khalid Magsi in attendance. Minister for Water Resources, Khurshid Ahmad Shah who also attended the meeting briefly preferred to remain silent on water dispute between Punjab and Sindh.
Sindh government’s team headed by Provincial Minister, Jam Khan Shoro and nearly a dozen officials including Member Sindh Irsa/Chairman Irsa, Zahid Junejo wrangled with Member Irsa Punjab, Amjad Saeed, on the issue of water distribution mechanism and current shortages facing Sindh and Punjab.
The issue of original Water Accord 1991, historical uses and 3-tier formula were top items in the heated debate between the Members of Sindh and Punjab in Irsa. Member Irsa Punjab accused Member Sindh/Chairman Irsa of distorting facts.
The Committee was informed that inflows from April 01 to 30, 2022 at Indus@ Tarbela was 13 per cent less - 1.831 MAF from anticipated flows of 2.102 MAF whereas inflows at Kabul River were less by 46 percent, Mangla by – 44 percent, Chenab - 48 per cent and E-R component – 61 percent.
According to Irsa, actual inflows during this period were recorded at 5.350 MAF as compared to the projected 8.590 MAF, showing a shortage of 38 percent.
Irsa maintained that countrywide rainfall for the month of April 2022 was 74 per cent below normal and ranked as the second driest month since 1961. April 2022 rainfall remained largely below normal over all parts of the country with Punjab - 89 percent, KP - 79 percent, Balochistan - 79 percent, AJ&K - 56 percent and BG - 51 percent. Irsa expressed surprise over the massive reduction in inflows from Kabul River.
However, with the increase in river inflows the following decisions were taken by Irsa: (i) Punjab’s releases enhanced from 77,700 cusecs to 80,000 cusecs and releases to Sindh increased to 67,000 cusecs. Accordingly, shortages for both Punjab and Sindh were reduced to 15 percent & 26 percent with respect to provincial indents respectively from 51 per cent.
Chairman Irsa stated that 15 per cent shortage is being shared by Punjab while Sindh is facing 26 per cent shortage. Chairman Standing Committee enquired why Chashma Jhelum Link canal has been opened? Member Irsa Punjab responded that the canal is opened under IRSA Accord. However, Member IRSA Sindh stated that CJ Link canal cannot be opened in accordance with the Water Accord.
Sindh Minister, Jam Khan Shoro asked why 42 percent less water is being given to Sindh and questioned why when Sindh is facing a drinking water shortage is water being released to link canals in Punjab. Member Irsa Punjab argued that the province has no other route to feed its canals other than the Indus system.
The committee was further informed that Met Office has projected high pressure to likely grip the country from Sunday due to which day temperatures are likely to increase gradually in most parts of the country. Day temperatures are likely to remain 07-09 Celsius above normal in upper Punjab, Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.
The position will improve considerably by May 15 onwards subject to current trend of increase in temperatures in Northern areas. The committee was further informed that CCI Secretariat has constituted a Steering Committee under the chairmanship of Minister for Water Resources to sort out differences amongst provinces. The committee will meet on Thursday (May 12).
The representatives of Sindh government refused to take control of Right Bank Canal Outfall Drain (RBOD) one and three until RBOD two is not constructed as per Sindh government’s plan. Secretary Ministry of Water Resources suggested that the provincial government should send the position paper to federal government so that the case may be presented before the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.
Sindh government also raised many questions on Left Bank Out Drain (LBOD), saying that Wapda handed over a faulty project to the province. Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Muhammad Asim informed the Committee that an amount of Rs 1.2 billion was deducted from Wapda with respect to Naulong Dam and remitted whereas remaining amount of over Rs 500 million will be remitted within a few days.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022