Wednesday October 05, 2022

Punjab, Sindh continue to spar over water issue

May 29, 2021

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The water row between the Punjab and Sindh has deepened with the former accusing the latter of stealing water and the latter complaining of getting less share.

With the row scaling new heights, the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has suspended the supply to Sindh from the Mangla Dam with immediate effect, saying the water level had gone down from 1,105ft.

However, the water regulator sticks to its decision to keep the TP (Taunsa-Punjnad) canal from the Indus open for the Punjab. The IRSA that met here on Friday to review the water situation took the decision to further slash the shares of Sindh and the Punjab, telling them that from now onwards they will share 32 percent water shortage with immediate effect against the previous shortage of 23 percent.

The Authority worked out an increase in water shortages up to 32 percent for Sindh and the Punjab, which is why their water shares been further slashed down. Sindh’s water share has decreased to 74,000 cusecs from 84,000 cusecs and Punjab’s to 83,000 cusecs from 94,000 cusecs.

However, in the meeting Sindh lodged a protest against another cut in its share, saying it was in violation of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991. A senior official, who was part of the meeting, told The News that Sindh’s shares was further slashed as per the three-tier water sharing formula and not as per the Water Accord.

When contacted, Zahid Hussain Junejo, Sindh Member IRSA, confirmed that he protested against further slashing down the share of the low riparian federating unit, terming the decision against the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord.

To a question, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan had summoned a meeting on Thursday over the ongoing water tension between Sindh and Punjab on opening of Taunsa-Punjnad (TP) link canal.

He said so far the IRSA had not got any written decision from the PM Secretariat. However, the Punjab continues to withdraw 500 cusecs from the TP link canal. Punjab is of the view that it is getting 500 cusecs water from the Indus through the TP link canal from its own allocated share.

Sindh says the TP canal cannot be opened unless its gets its share and there is plenty of water in the Indus. However, IRSA said it had started releasing 8,000 cusecs water to Sindh from Mangla on May 18 with the understanding that when the water level came down to 1,105ft, the supply to Sindh will be halted with immediate effect.

Since the water level has reached 1,104ft, the Authority has decided to cut off water supply to Sindh with immediate effect. “We have slashed down outflows from Mangla from 58,000 cusecs to 50,000 cusecs and if Mangla Dam is not filled, the Kharif crops in Punjab will not only get damaged, but also the Rabi crops will sustain losses," said an official.

According to a press release issued by IRSA, the Met office broke the good news that temperatures in Skardu had started rising, which will cause melting of snow in the catchment area of Indus, increasing the water flows.

It also predicted further improvement in temperature in Skardu in the next 48-72 hours. Meanwhile, talking to the media at the DGPR office here on Friday, Special Assistant to the Punjab Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Friday alleged that Sindh was trying to divide the nation by creating hate among the federating units and the PPP was trying to gain public sympathies through the water politics.

She said apportionment of waters of the Indus River System Authority among the provinces in 1991 had given Punjab the right to use its share of water at Taunsa and Punjnad and canal water was provided to the cotton crop.

She said Sindh was giving a misleading impression that Punjab’s representative to the IRSA was trying to pressurize Sindh’s representative that was factually incorrect and misleading. “Only eight per cent water losses occur in the Punjab, while 39 percent of water is lost in Sindh,” she said.

She said the IRSA should ensure a viable and trustworthy mechanism to gauge water losses and correct data should be collected to ensure judicious distribution of water among the provinces.

INP adds: Punjab Minister for Irrigation Mohsin Khan Leghari Friday said unfortunately for the last many decades long-term storage policy was badly neglected. Talking to the media outside the Punjab Assembly, he said this year water level in rivers and dams had reached an alarming level.

Leghari said the Punjab and Sindh were facing water shortage due to less flow of water. He said Sindh was facing 17 percent water shortage and the Punjab 22 percent. The minister said IRSA was asked to depute monitors on the barrages in Punjab.

He said, "We want neutral empire for distribution of water. Our system is based on 2,600 miles while the Sindh system covers 600 miles. "The Punjab government is going to build 13 small dams,” he added.

Speaking in the National Assembly on Thursday, Federal Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza also demanded due share of water for Sindh and accused the Punjab of stealing the water of other provinces. She also held a meeting with the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah Friday said the water shortage of his province was not a political but an economic issue. Giving policy statement in the Sindh Assembly, he said up to 27 percent water shortfall faced by the province translated into economic losses to the tune of Rs27 billion.

He said whenever there was water shortage in the country, the TP Link Canal was opened to curtail water supply to Sindh. He said they had been hearing since long that they would receive water only after construction of more dams in the country.

He said everyone in the Sindh Assembly had supported whenever any resolution was moved in the House on the issue of water shortage. He said the IRSA in the past too committed irregularities in water distribution whenever there was water shortage in the country. He said Sindh had always stiffly resisted any such move to curtail its share of water.

He said the Punjab had received 33 per cent more water in the previous part of Rabi season, while Sindh received 27 per cent less water. He said smaller provinces at the tail-end of the water supply system had been affected.

He said they had been elected by the people of Sindh to raise voice on the righteous stance. He recalled that the Pakistan Peoples’ Party had opposed the Water Accord of 1991 when it was being signed.

He said discharge of freshwater into sea was important for conserving the Indus Delta area in the province. He said the 1991 Water Accord had also contained provision to discharge 5,000 cubic feet freshwater into sea but now not a single drop of water was being released downstream Kotri. He clarified that he was a well-wisher of the people of Punjab but their only demand was to get the due water share of the province.