Sharing water

Editorial Board
September 19, 2022

Provincial water sharing has been a major issue in the country. All provinces have one complaint or another about the fair distribution of water from rivers. Now, according to reports, the country...

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Provincial water sharing has been a major issue in the country. All provinces have one complaint or another about the fair distribution of water from rivers. Now, according to reports, the country will be switching exclusively to an automated system to determine the water sharing system among the provinces. For the past three years this system was being test run parallel with the manual system. The new system is likely to facilitate the relevant authorities in determining an accurate forecast of water viability. It will also help the country contain system gains and losses so that future controversies can be avoided. The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) is planning to rely solely on the automated system in the coming season. The new system – appropriately called the Water Apportionment Accord (WAA) Tool – will apportion adequate allocations of water to the provinces from the river system. The manual system, which has been in use for decades, remained a bone of contention among provinces and has affected interprovincial relations. Frequent bickering on water distribution created unnecessary acrimony and one hopes this is now likely to disappear or at least reduce in intensity.

Water disputes exist in many countries, but there have been mechanisms to sort them out. A high level of transparency is vital in resolving such disputes as provincial governments tend to question the distribution mechanism that is largely controlled by the federal government. Lower riparian areas are mostly concerned about their due share in water and have been complaining about an unjust allocation that uses an obsolete manual system. Now with a new system, there is hope that such disputes may subside to a large extent through transparency that is inbuilt in the new technology.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Water Resources, IRSA, Wapda, and provincial irrigation departments must make sure that the new system is appropriately installed and used. After near-perfect performance for three years, IRSA has decided to completely switch over to the new system next month. The river and reservoir operations in Pakistan have not been user-friendly for long and the personnel responsible for managing the system will need capacity building in all relevant authorities and organizations. What is needed now is to ensure that pre-seasonal planning becomes easier and provincial demands are met in a more transparent and equitable manner. It must also be kept in view that just by introducing a new system all problems in water-share management will not vanish. There is a need to restore the rapidly declining reliability of reservoir storage as increased sedimentation in the face of heavy rains and floods raises the level of reservoir beds.



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