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A view of the dried up Khanpur Dam. — Dawn
A view of the dried up Khanpur Dam. — Dawn

TAXILA: The water level at Khanpur Dam has dropped drastically to just 20 feet above the ‘dead level’, forcing authorities to further curtail water supply to Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for civic purposes and irrigation.

If the water level does not increase in the next couple of weeks, authorities fear that the Capital Development Board in Islamabad and the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board may be asked to ration water.

According to the dam authorities, there has been a massive decrease in the inflow of water due to the prevailing hot and dry weather and no major rainfall in the catchment areas.

At some points, underwater rocks and the dam bed have become visible, which is an alarming sign. Dam authorities have also warned that a severe water crisis is looming over the twin cities as Khanpur Dam dries up due to the prolonged dry spell.

According to officials, the reservoir, which has a daily requirement of 219 cusecs, receives just 66 cusecs every day. They warn that water supply may be suspended to the twin cities if it does not rain, which would create an acute shortage of water for residents and for industries and irrigation.

Dam official Irfan Khattak told Dawn on Wednesday that the water level at the dam was 1,933.14 above mean sea level (AMSL), which is just 20 feet higher than the dead level of 1,910 AMSL.

He said outflow from the reservoir – 219.18 cusecs per day – is much higher than the daily inflow of 66.15 cusecs. The outflow includes 70 cusecs to the CDA, 50 cusecs to the Punjab Irrigation Department and 93 cusecs to the KP Irrigation Department and other civic beneficiaries such as the University of Engineering and Technology, Heavy Industries Taxila and cement factories are supplied 6.18 cusecs per day.

He said the declining water level has caused the dam to reduce supply to Rawalpindi, Islamabad and KP for civic and irrigation purposes – the supply to Islamabad has been reduced from 80 to 70 cusecs daily.

In response to a question, he said water for irrigation purposes was not suspended for Punjab in order to save standing crops and fruit orchards in the area that need water during the prevailing weather conditions. He said this was the first time water supply for irrigation had not been suspended despite a decline in the dam level.

Khanpur Dam is located on the Haro River, which originates in Galiyat, near the Potohar Plateau and Khanpur village in KP. The dam caters to domestic water supply to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, as well as irrigation supply to agricultural and industrial areas around the twin cities. It is 167 feet high and stores 140 million cubic metres of water.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017