ISLAMABAD: With estimates of up to 40 per cent water shortage in April, the upcoming Kharif crops face a serious challenge and may need delayed sowing.

The technical committee of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has been called on Thursday to finalise water availability estimates for the Kharif season to enable the provinces to plan sowing of crops accordingly.

The meeting would be presided over by director operations of Irsa and representatives of the provinces and related agencies like Wapda and Met Office would submit their respective estimates and finalise ‘anticipated water availability for Kharif 2018’ for advisory committee of the Irsa.

The advisory committee would then approve a water distribution plan based on irrigation requirements of the four provinces.

Kharif season lasts from April 1 to November 30, and rice, sugarcane, cotton and maize are some of the key crops.

Talking to Dawn, sources said the two reservoirs – Tarbela and Mangla – were currently at dead level, and therefore, unlikely to carry forward any water quantities into Kharif season. Total storage currently in two reservoirs is estimated at 0.105 million cubic feet (MAF)

These sources said Punjab and Sindh were currently facing 56pc and 47pc water shortage respectively. Overall shortage for the final days of the ongoing Rabi season was estimated at 51pc. With 56pc shortage, Punjab was currently getting 27,300 cusec water while Sindh was receiving 20,000 cusec with 47pc shortage. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are always exempt from water shortage because of their capacity constraints.

Sources said the relevant agencies and the provinces were anticipating severe shortage in the month of April because of unusual weather conditions currently. Despite the recent brief rain spell, river flows have not improved while temperatures did not increase enough to facilitate snow melting in northern Pakistan.

Sources said water flows in the major rivers had declined significantly in recent days. The river flows were recorded at 43,600 cusec at reservoirs while the provinces were drawing about 44,800 cusec for their ripe crops.

“The water situation is really alarming,” a senior government official said. A technical committee would assess the situation and finalise estimates for water availability during the coming crop season, he added.

According to the latest data released by Irsa on Wednesday, Tarbela dam was at its dead level of 1,386 feet, with inflows of 15,700 cusecs and outflows of 15,700 cusecs, having zero water storage.

Water level at the Mangla dam stood at 1,050 feet on Wednesday morning against its dead level of 1,040 feet, having a storage of 0.034 MAF.

Inflows at Mangla were recorded at 11,700 cusecs against outflows of 12,900 cusecs. As a result, total inflows at rim stations were recorded at 43,600 cusecs against total outflows below rim stations at about 44,800 cusecs.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2018