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KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has asked the irrigation department to evolve a strategy to meet the feared 10-60 per cent shortage of water for Kharif season.

It has also been directed to ensure that the shortage does not affect supply of drinking water to consumers.

The directives came at a meeting presided over by him at the CM House to review reports regarding imminent water shortages during the Kharif season.

Mr Shah asked the irrigation secretary to hold a meeting with chief engineers of all three barrages and discuss with them ways to deal with the situation in the shortage period. He directed him to keep the general public informed about water shortage.

They should also be informed that priority was assigned to the supply of drinking water, he said, adding that the farming community and agriculturists irrigating their lands from Nara and Rohri canals should be kept aware of the late sowing of cotton ie from May 1, and those getting water from the Ghotki canal from May 15.

“For the paddy/rice cultivation, a fresh strategy may be evolved to facilitate farmers and tillers getting water through the Rice Canal sources,” he said.

The chief minister said that adjustment in the canal discharge to manage the shortages should be made in consultation and on the advice of the chief engineers concerned.

Kotri barrage would receive water proportionately but priority should be assigned to drinking water needs through the canals off-taking from the barrage,” he said.

Earlier the chief minister was briefed by Irrigation Secretary Jamal Shah about the water availability position in the basin. He said that it emerged deficient, below the allocated discharge since March 9.

“The situation has worsened with the new spell of snowfall in the northern areas and a reduction in the temperatures. The run-off from the catchments has reduced which resulted in an alarming depletion of Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs,” he said.

The secretary said that the expected shortage had started on March 18 and might stand at 10 to 60 per cent in the first 10 days of April. The situation might aggravate towards the end of April, he added.

Jamal Shah said that he had already held a meeting with the chief engineers to evolve a strategy under which there would be annual closure of Guddu barrage on March 31.

Till that time, the pond level would be lowered and maintained at RL 249 for supply of water to Balochistan, power stations and Ghotki canal.

On April 1, the barrage gates would be fully raised and water would be fully released downstream.

He said that almost all canals would have to bear a 50pc shortage, adding that the province had experienced a similar shortage in the past and successfully dealt with it.

The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon, Principal Secretary to the CM Naveed Kamran Baloch and other senior officials concerned.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017