ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is facing an acute water shortage of 38 per cent for irrigation purposes amid the Kharif season which commenced on April 1 with the sowing of major crops, including cotton, sugarcane, rice and maize.
The Indus River System Authority (IRSA), regulating and monitoring the distribution of water sources of the Indus River among all the four federating units, gave a presentation to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Water Resources here on Thursday. The authority said that the water shortage has now turned worse than the earlier projected shortage of 22 per cent. Presently, there is a water shortage of 38 per cent, hitting hard the two major crop-producing provinces - Punjab and Sindh - and affecting the current crops sowing pattern.
Nawab Yousaf Talpur chaired the meeting and Federal Minister for Water Resources Khursheed Shah, Sindh’s Minister for Irrigation Jam Khan Shoro and other officials attended the meeting. The committee constituted a panel comprising representatives of the federal government, Punjab and Sindh to address the concerns of the provinces and give recommendations regarding the fair distribution of water among the federating units.
The committee will gauge water inflow and outflow positions at the Guddu and Sukkur Barrages and their subsidiary canals on Friday. At the same time, it is also tasked with giving recommendations regarding fair distribution of water among the federating units.
According to the IRSA, the inflows of the Indus River from April 1 to 30 at Tarbela were 13 per cent less - 1.831 MAF compared to expected flows of 2.102 MAF. In contrast, the inflows of the Kabul River declined by 46 per cent, Mangla by 44 per cent and Chenab by 48 per cent. The actual inflows during this period were recorded at 5.350 MAF compared to the projected 8.590 MAF, showing a shortage of 38 per cent. The IRSA also informed that the countrywide rainfall in April 2022 was 74 per cent below average and was ranked as the second driest month since 1961. The rain in April remained below average all over the country. Punjab received 89 per cent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 79 per cent, Balochistan 79 per cent, Azad Jammu and Kashmir 56 per cent and GB 51 per cent. The IRSA mentioned that the massive reduction in inflows from the Kabul River was unexpected.
Responding to a point of order raised in the National Assembly by several members of the National Assembly about the shortage of water in Sindh and Punjab, Minister for Water Resources Khursheed Shah said that the country is facing water shortage and the tail-end areas of Sindh and Punjab were suffering most. He said the water shortage situation would improve by June 15. He assured that all the provinces would be given water as per their share and the water shortage would be shared accordingly. He requested the Punjab government to provide up to 300 cusecs of water to the Cholistan areas of south Punjab from its share.
Earlier, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) Secretariat constituted a steering committee under the chairmanship of the minister for water resources to sort out the differences among the provinces.
Meanwhile, the water storage at the Mangla Dam has been recorded nearly at rock-bottom even during the peak summer inflow season, making it the lowest level ever recorded at this point of time with filling down by a whopping nine times against the 10-year average.
Against the Mangla Dam’s maximum filling capacity of 7.55 million acre feet (MAF), the water storage on May 10, 2022 was recorded at just 0.151 million acre feet over 1.539 MAF average storage recorded for the corresponding day in the last 10 years (2012 to 2021). This worrying development shows the Mangla Dam’s storage is terribly down by a whopping nine times or 920 per cent.
Keeping in view the abysmally low flows pattern, the filling of the Mangla Dam on the Jhelum River to the maximum conservation level becomes near to impossible as more than half of the peak flow season has already lapsed. In the evolving scenario, said a senior official, only a high flood on the back of widespread rainfall for a fairly longer period of several weeks can lead to filling the dam to its maximum water holding capacity. The potential non-filling of the Mangla Dam may spell disaster for the agriculture sector in the ongoing Kharif season and especially in the upcoming Rabi season when the strategic wheat crop is cultivated, he added.
The water storage at the Tarbela Dam was also short of annual filling trend. With little relative improvement, the Tarbela Dam’s storage was down by 68.45 per cent against the average level of last 10 years. On May 10, 2022, the water storage at the Tarbela Dam on the Indus River was recorded at 0.168 MAF against 0.283 MAF average storage recorded for the corresponding day in the last 10 years (2012 to 2021).
With such a low level of storage and meager flows particularly in Jhelum, Kabul and Chenab Rivers, the canal water shortage continues to hit standing crops. The Sindh province, being a lower riparian area, is also at the receiving end as far as water shortage is concerned. The low flows of water have particularly been witnessed in Sukkur and Kotri Barrages where people even rely on river flows for meeting their drinking needs.
However, dry conditions in the Mangla Command area are stated to be direct outcome of historic low flows in Jhelum and Chenab Rivers. Punjab, being the main recipient of flows out of these rivers, is presently bearing the brunt of colossal water shortage. As per the latest water situation in barrages and canals in Punjab, being fed from Mangla and Chenab Rivers in the absence of reasonable diversion from the Indus Zone, a huge deficit in flows is being witnessed in main canals.
Presently, the water requirement at the Taunsa Barrage is 21,500 cusecs while only 8,404 cusecs are available with a 61 per cent reduction in flows. Similarly, the water requirement at the Panjnad Barrage is 14,650 cusecs while there are only 4,642 cusecs, showing a reduction of 68 per cent. The Trimmu Barrage requires 16,700 cusecs while only 10,700 cusecs are available with a drop of 36 per cent in flows.
Sulemanki Barrage canals require 13,300 cusecs of water but only 6,506 cusecs are available with a reduction of 51 per cent. The Islam Barrage is facing a 45 per cent shortage of water while the Baloki Headworks at the heart of the Punjab province is facing a 36 per cent shortage.
Resultantly, the Lower Bahawal Canal for Bahawalpur, which needs 5,062 cusecs but with a reduction of 65pc, is getting only 1,800 cusecs. The Mailsi Canal needs 4,505 cusecs for Lodhran but only 1,962 cusecs are being operated with a 56 per cent reduction in flows. Overall, the canal system of Punjab needs a total of 84,517 cusecs of water but, at present, the whole system is facing a shortage of 47 per cent, withdrawing close to 60,000 cusecs against the demand of 88,000 cusecs.
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