The Sindh government on Tuesday accused the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of exaggerating the threat of floods for ulterior motives.
Sindh Minister for Irrigation Jam Saifullah Dharejo said the NDMA happened to be a big institution but sometimes it created such alarms to get more funds.
He was responding to questions raised by MPAs at the Sindh Assembly where irrigation officials gave them a briefing about a water shortage and theft in certain areas of the province as well as the approaching monsoon season.
Responding to a question by MPA Munawar Abbasi, the irrigation minister said that no forecast or warning was issued for the super flood of 2010, while the province was suffering an acute water shortage just 10 days before the devastating flood. He said that floods occur owing to unprecedented rains.
Dharejo revealed that he talked to the NDMA chairman following its alarming prediction about floods, and told him that the farmers in Sindh were showing reluctance to sow crops due to such warnings.
He said that he had directed the irrigation officials to hold talks with deputy commissioners to launch awareness drive for growers about the cultivation of crops in the given circumstances. He claimed that NDMA had no system to make such predictions about floods.
Irrigation Secretary Baber Effendi told the MPAs that at present Sindh was facing a 50 percent shortage of water, and added that it was likely to be reduced up to 20 percent by the end of June.
Effendi alleged that Punjab was stealing Sindh’s water through the Chashma-Jhelum link canal. Elaborating, he said that under the Water Accord 1991, Punjab could get 5,000 cusecs of water for the Thal Canal but at present the province was drawing 10,000 cusecs “illegally” through the Chashma-Jhelum link canal.
He said that Sindh had raised this issue with Irsa (Indus River System Authority) and pointed out that under the Water Accord, Sindh and Punjab were supposed to share the shortage of water equally but this was not being implemented. He said that Sindh had approached Irsa to direct Lahore to follow the accord.
The irrigation minister formed a committee of MPAs to control water theft. He also issued directions to the irrigation officials to control water theft and seek Rangers’ help, if needed, for ensuring equitable distribution of water.
He issued these directions when MPA Hasnain Mirza complained that the Nasir Canal was facing a water shortage and whatever water was available in the canal was being stolen through “illegal” watercourses.
Munawar Abbasi said that during the corresponding period of last year the farmers had cultivated paddy crop but at present water was not available. He complained that water was being stolen in certain areas while farmers were also fearful of the approaching monsoon rains.
MPA Humera Alwani said that her colleagues might have apprehensions about the lack of cultivation of crops but in her Thatta constituency drinking water was not available in Jati, Shah Bandar and other areas.
MPA Rafiq Banban said that tail-end farmers of Faiz Ganj in the Khairpur district were also deprived of water.
Other MPAs who attended the briefing included Ghulam Qadir Chandio, Mir Hayat Talpur and Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto.
The chief engineers of Kotri, Guddu and Sukkur barrages, Mithal Abbasi, Zaheer Haider Shah and Agha Aijaz, respectively, were also present.
Munawar Abbasi had raised the issue of an acute water shortage during the last session of the Sindh Assembly, following which Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro had given a ruling that the irrigation minister and officials would give a briefing to the MPAs in order to address their concerns.