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Opening of TP link canal: Tug of war on water between Sindh, Punjab intensifies

May 26, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing tug of war between the IRSA members from Sindh and Punjab over water distribution has touched a new high over the opening of TP link canal from Indus at a time when the low riparian federating units are craving for water even for drinking purposes.

The IRSA authority met here on Tuesday for review of the water situation after giving its new estimates under which the country will experience 17 percent water shortages during the period from May 21 to June 10.

However, when the data about gauges on water releases were placed before members, the Sindh member is reported to have agitated when he came to know that the Taunsa-Punjnand link canal was opened a day before without informing Sindh and Balochistan wherein people of both the provinces, according to him, do not have enough water to cater to their drinking requirements.

Sindh Member Zahid Hussain Junejo protested over the development, saying it is a clear breach of the water accord. He argued that the link canal can be opened from Indus only when below Kotri 5,000 cusecs water is made available.

One of the members of IRSA told The News that Punjab Member Rao Irshad Ali Khan, who is also the IRSA chairman, became furious and threw a book towards the Sindh member, calling him a fool. “And then the IRSA chairman came out of the meeting room.”

When contacted, Sindh Member Zahid Hussain Junejo confirmed the development but refused to share the whole episode, saying it is not in the interest of the country and the water regulator as well. However, he said that IRSA had earlier on May 3, 2021, allowed Punjab to open the Chashma-Jehlum and Taunsa-Punjnand link canals out of which the TP link canal was closed down when Sindh had protested, terming this decision a violation of the water accord. He said the Tuesday's data says that the TP link canal which was opened a day before is getting 500 cusecs of water, however, in the same breath he also said that it is yet to be verified and there are chances that the TP link canal is getting more water than what is being reported.

He went on to say that below Kotri, there is no water even for drinking purposes in cities line Kotri, Hyderabad, Latifabad and Hussainabad and more importantly, Kinjar Lake from where Karachi is supplied water is not getting water from Indus.

However, Punjab Member Rao Irshad Ali Khan in a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Water that met on May 24, 2021, had said Punjab has the right to withdraw water from any canal from its allocated share.

He also said release of water below Kotri up to 5,000 cusecs per day is possible when new water storages are built as per the study of the international panel of experts. The IRSA spokesman issued an explanatory statement, denying any exchange of hot words between members of Sindh and Punjab. Nonetheless, it confirmed that the Sindh member in the meeting submitted its objection in strong words on the opening of TP link canal with intake of 500 cusecs of water from Indus.

The statement said the IRSA meeting was held to review the water situation from May 1 to June 10, keeping in view its decision on water shortage projections of 17 percent.

It also mentions that IRSA Chairman Rao Irshad Ali Khan was of the view in the meeting that according to 14-b of the water accord, any province has the right to take water from any canal from its water share.