Thursday December 08, 2022

Punjab, Sindh lock horns over water distribution

November 04, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The country’s two federating units, Punjab and Sindh, here on Wednesday locked horns over the distribution of water with the lower riparian province asking for sharing of water under 10-dailies worked out under Para-2 of the Accord as has been worked out by the Law Division in 2000. However, in the ongoing Rabi season, IRSA is distributing under the three tier formula amid the 28 percent water shortfall, asking the provinces to go for judicious use of water under "more crop per drop policy".

However, the upper riparian province, Punjab, pleaded the Law Division also says that water distribution should continue under internal arrangement worked out by the IRSA unless and until the aggrieved party moves the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

The battle of arguments between Punjab and Sindh was witnessed in the meeting of NA Committee on Water Resources that met with Nawab Mohammad Yousuf Talpur in the chair here on Wednesday. The NA committee, however, said that water distribution must be made as per Para-2 of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991 as the current three tier formula was against the spirit of the accord.

The committee also noticed that water account of the country has never been audited so far for which IWMI (International Water Management Issue) has been asked to start the process of measuring the water flow to assess water availability in the system. Yousuf Talpur stressed for implementation of the telemetry system.

Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro said that Sindh cannot be punished because of shortage of water, holding responsible the-then government in 1960, which signed the Indus Waters Treaty, selling the country’s rivers without getting a nod from Sindh.

The Sindh minister said that link canals —Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Punjnad — should only be operational where there is a flood as these two canals are flood canals, but IRSA also opens these canals when there is no flood and this deviation causes huge dent to Sindh’s water interests.

The Sindh minister also argued for excess water losses as the land in Sindh is sandy. However, Sindh refused to allow internal firm IWMI for measurement of losses, urging water audit by a foreign firm.

Punjab’s Irrigation Minister Mohsin Khan Leghari at the outset of the NA proceeding asked the IRSA chairman, who is from Sindh, not to behave like a politician as he was a bureaucrat and water regulator chief.

The Punjab minister said Para-2 was implemented only when the country had 114 million acre feet of water in its system. He also pointed out to the Law Division's interpretation, saying that Sindh has pitched its one portion of interpretation in the meeting in its favour, but the leftover portion also says that IRSA should continue to distribute the water as per 3 tier formula unless the aggrieved party moves the CCI.

The-then Attorney General, Mansur Ali Khan, also recommended that steps should be taken to assess the water availability in the country as the figure of 114 MAF is an assumed one. Punjab also drew the attention towards the Para-6 of the Water Accord, which says that more dams should be constructed.

Punjab also agitated against the issue of water losses by Sindh, arguing that IRSA had allowed Sindh 35 percent water losses in early Kharif while the Sindh Irrigation Department reported the losses at 52 percent. Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, said in the meeting that discharge measurement is imperative to exactly know the water availability in the system.