ISLAMABAD: For the first time in five years, the Kharif crops may face a ‘drought-like situation in sowing season’, as all early indications and estimates for the agriculture produce appear worsening.
Irrigation authorities and weather pundits reported that water shortfall in the remaining four weeks of the sowing season could increase up to 52 per cent.
Take a look: Kharif crops: enabling environment
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) advisory committee in an urgent meeting held on Tuesday noted that water shortage since the start of the sowing season early last month had turned out to be 42pc — much higher than the previous estimate of 31pc — with the result that the provinces would have to brave a proportionate cut in their water share during the remaining period of early Kharif season ending on June 10.
The agriculture sector had generally performed well particularly in major crops such as wheat, sugar cane and cotton, as it had not faced acute water shortage over the past five years.
Irsa says provinces to bear proportionate cut in water shares; pins hopes on monsoon as dry spell to continue till mid-June
The water regulator noted at the meeting, which was presided over by Irsa Chairman Ahmad Kamal, that since the provinces had drawn their water shares on the basis of 31pc shortage instead of actual 42pc, they would have to bear a proportionate cut in their water share during the early sowing season.
The Kharif crop season starts from April-June (crucial time for sowing of Kharif crops) and lasts until October-December in different parts of the country. Rice, sugar cane, cotton and maize are some of the key crops of the season.
“(Water) shortages for early Kharif increased from 31pc to 42pc as water inflows remained 15pc below anticipation,” said Irsa spokesman Khalid Idrees Rana soon after the meeting. In this situation, he said, the authorities had pinned their hopes on monsoon showers for the Kharif crops.
Contrary to the estimates of Irsa and irrigation authorities for 9.32-million-acre-foot (MAF) water inflow in reservoir, the actual inflow remained at around 7.9MAF, which was 15pc less than the estimated figure, added the spokesman for the regulatory authority.
So far Sindh suffered 53pc water shortage while Punjab faced 47pc water shortfall, he added.
An official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department told the meeting that the remaining period of May and the first half of June was predicted to remain mostly dry with “no change in present situation”. However, the official added, monsoon was expected to start in the mid of June.
The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) reported that snow availability in the catchment areas of reservoirs was 50pc less than normal and whatever minimal water quantities reach reservoirs would be provided on run-of-the-river basis to the provinces according to their shares.
He said the Irsa would again review water situation in June mid after the Met Office weather forecast related to monsoon.
Seeks report on water losses
Mr Rana said Punjab expressed concern over heavy water losses from Taunsa to Kotri Barrage, which were estimated at around one million acres feet. Irsa constituted a regulations director-led committee comprising directors from Punjab and Sindh to measure discharges at Guddu barrage and other barrages of the country and submit its report to the regulator.
All the five Irsa members representing the four provinces and the centre highlighted the need for the construction of new dams on a war footing as a tool to improve water regulation through better utilisation of surplus flows.
On a complaint of Balochistan government, the Sindh government also agreed to take immediate steps to overcome shortages faced by Balochistan given the fact that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have been exempted from water shortage due to their infrastructure constraints as they suffer the most when they do not get their approved shares.
In view of the ongoing rainy spell, the regulator also changed its regulation pattern and increased provincial shares based on improved flows. As a result, Punjab’s water share was increased from 56,000 cusecs to 64,000 cusecs while Sindh’s share was enhanced from 43,000 cusecs to 55,000 cusecs. Balochistan’s share was set at 5,000 cusecs and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s share was fixed at 3,100 cusecs.
The meeting was attended by Irsa members from Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab besides Wapda’s chief engineer (hydrology), Met Office director and irrigation authorities from Mangla dam and the provincial governments.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018