ISLAMABAD: The current water flows in River Jhelum are at a 42-year low level and will lead to around 40 per cent water shortage in early-Kharif season, posing serious threat to upcoming crops, authorities said on Thursday.

A technical committee of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) comprising technical experts from federal agencies including Wapda, Meteorological Department and representatives from the four provinces calculated total water availability at 95 million acre feet (MAF) for Kharif season compared to 107 MAF last year and post-Tarbela dam average of 112 MAF.

There would be no carryover water storage in Kharif after many years and the entire irrigation would depend purely on river flows, said Director Operations Irsa, Khalid Idrees Rana, who presided over the meeting.

He said the Met Office briefed the meeting about the prevailing weather conditions and predicted above normal temperatures in April and yet below normal snow melting in catchment areas. Based on current data, the Met office forecast normal rainfall in monsoon season but would firm up those projections by end-May.

Entire irrigation system will have to rely solely on river flows in Kharif

The meeting expressed serious concern over Jhelum flows and noted that the situation was unusual in the outgoing Rabi season and was feared to remain so in Kharif.

The meeting decided to take up the matter with Irsa’s advisory committee when it meets on March 29 and propose close monitoring for a review by mid-April.

It was anticipated that Mangla dam would not be able to achieve filling to full capacity next season.

On the other hand, the authorities estimated normal flows in Indus, Chenab and Kabul rivers during Kharif.

Irsa, Wapda and Sindh government agreed that water losses in Indus Zone would be 40pc in early Kharif and 20pc in late Kharif.

Representatives from Punjab objected to higher estimates for water losses and demanded that these should not be more than 20pc. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also supported this point of view. It was, therefore, decided to refer the matter to the advisory committee and proposed a professional study to ascertain actual water losses. Water losses in Chenab Zone were jointly assessed at 5pc.

Mr Rana said the technical committee estimated 30-40pc water shortage for early Kharif i.e. April but a final conclusion would be made by the advisory committee on March 29.

He said the Sindh government pointed out that flows in Jhelum river stood at historically lows and should be investigated. The meeting also asked Wapda to submit a revised rating table for Mangla and Tarbela dams in view of declining storage capacity. Mangla dam’s dead-level which has reportedly risen from historic 1,040 feet to 1,050 feet, affecting water storage estimates.

The Wapda authorities agreed that post-Tarbela average water availability stood at 112 MAF in Kharif compared to 95MAF estimated for coming season and promised to firm up and submit revised rating tables for both dams by mid-April.

The meeting was informed that flows in Jhelum river had been abnormal since last year and the Pakistan Indus Water Commission (PIWC) had been requested recently to seek from India an early visit to rivers across the line of control under the auspices of the Indus Waters Treaty.

Mr Rana said the regulator’s advisory committee would review water availability situation on March 29 and also determine provincial water shares as per water availability.

River flows in Indus at Tarbela were reported at 17,000 cusecs and the entire quantity was released downstream. Kabul flows at Nowshera were reported at 7,500 cusecs. Inflows at Mangla in Jhelum were recorded at 12,500 cusecs compared to outflows of 13,700 cusecs.

Minimum operating level at Tarbela was reported at 1,386 feet (dead-level) having zero storage. Water level at Mangla was also recorded at 1,050 feet or dead level.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2018