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January 26, 2019

IRSA cuts water shortage in Rabi to 32pc on rains


January 26, 2019

LAHORE: The forecast for water shortage has been revised down to 30-32 percent from 38 percent this Rabi season, as more than expected snowfall and belated rains will replenish some of the supplies, an official of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) said on Friday.

Anticipating better river water availability on the back of widespread snowfall, especially on lower and middle reaches and delayed rains, the Rabi shortfall would come down to 30-32 percent, the official said.

The authority has been successful in storing some additional water in Tarbela and Mangla dams this week, due to relatively high flows that would give extra leverage, and help meet the demand of the standing wheat crop. More significantly, unlike previous years, shortfall in river flows was stated to be lesser in late Rabi and early Kharif seasons or from March to May, the official added.

In April-May, the demand for water increases, but with empty dams and river flows not picking up, growers face more difficulties in sowing Kharif crops. “However, the situation might not be as intensive this year,” the official said.

Below normal rains in early Rabi (October-December), dampened the outlook for wheat and other crops. IRSA had projected 38 percent water shortage during the current Rabi season (October-March). The advisory committee forecasted 18.99 million acre feet (MAF) availability of river water during the Rabi season, anticipating water storage of 5.90MAF.

Following the recent snowfall and spell of rain, the gloomy picture of water availability might turn brighter to some extent, or at least for meeting the irrigation needs up till the next month.

Scattered rainfall continued during the last week in different areas across the country, especially in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kashmir, Punjab, and some parts of Balochistan and Sindh. Rain has been reported in central and upper parts of the country, while successive spells of snowfall in lower and middle reaches would lead to greater water supplies in days to come.

However, moderate-to-severe drought-like conditions were expected in lower parts of the country, including most of Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

The rain-fed areas in Punjab province, where gram crop mostly depends on rains has finally received some showers too, igniting hopes of avoiding crop failure.

The January rains were a bonus and rightly welcomed by farmers, as it would lead to reducing demand of water for the next fortnight. Rain was witnessed when it was badly needed, as water supplies were diminishing. Since the canals are shut due to the annual closure in January and early February, the arrival of rain showers brings hope. Though it was premature to say anything concrete, officials said the Mangla dam had not been filled to capacity last year due to lesser inflows in Jhelum River.

“However, it is expected to fill to maximum capacity in 2019,” the officials said, citing an optimistic view because of widespread snowfall in catchment area of river in Kashmir. The water management authority anticipated that the Tarbela Dam might also be filled to its maximum capacity a bit earlier than usual.

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