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Judicious water-sharing: Illegal diversions

July 17, 2013

WHILE low inflows from upstream have been cited as a reason for reduced availability of irrigation water in Sindh, it is equally true that illegal diversions within provincial boundaries are playing a significant role in the uneven distribution of water. Well-connected individuals illegally divert canal water to irrigate their lands, leaving tail-end growers with less than their share. Highlighting this unlawful siphonage, the Indus River System Authority has found over 70 illegal water outlets connected to the Sukkur Barrage’s Northwest Canal. Not only are these outlets depriving Balochistan of its share, tail-enders in Sindh are also being affected. An Irsa team has said both the Sindh and Balochistan governments are not doing enough to prevent the illegal siphonage of water. The team has also said that the Sukkur Barrage is under threat as a delta has formed in its storage area, while some individuals are using the formation to plant crops. The delta has formed because apparently, irrigation rules were ignored. This has resulted in a reduction of the barrage’s storage capacity.

Both these instances point towards mismanagement and neglect. For this, the provincial irrigation departments particularly in Sindh where the irrigation authorities’ poor performance has repeatedly come in for flak, must be held responsible. Honest officials who try and put a stop to illegalities are either ostracised or transferred. Managing the water shortage and judiciously sharing water are major challenges before the federation, particular-ly between Sindh and Punjab and now Sindh and Balochistan. Hence if water management is ineffective within a province, it only exacerbates the overall situation. For judicious inter- and intra-provincial sharing of water, Sindh’s irrigation department needs to be overhauled to prevent water theft and system losses. The provincial chief minister has himself stressed the need to crack down on water thieves while tail-end growers in the province have for long criticised illegal diversions of water. Politicisation within this key department must end while professional and honest officials must be allowed to do their jobs, without interference from ‘influentials’.