India finally shares floodwater discharge data

Updated August 21, 2019

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KASUR: People cross a flooded road on Tuesday.— Aun Jafri / White Star
KASUR: People cross a flooded road on Tuesday.— Aun Jafri / White Star

LAHORE: India has finally shared data related to floodwater discharges in the River Sutlej with Pakistan, pledging to fulfil its responsibility under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960.

However, it has refused to fulfil its responsibility under the Advance Flood Information Agreement (AFIA) signed in 1989 during the first government of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in the wake of the 1988 floods in Pakistan, according to a senior official at the Pakistan office for Indus waters.

“They (Indian commissioner for Indus waters) contacted us on Monday night and shared data regarding floodwater discharge (50,000 cusecs) in the River Sutlej. He told us that since the treaty binds India to fulfil its responsibility of informing Pakistan about any such extraordinary situation, the information regarding discharges of 50,000 cusecs in Sutlej is being shared under the same accord,” Pakistan’s Additional Commissioner for Indus Waters Shiraz Memon told Dawn.

He said on Tuesday morning Pakistan’s office of the commissioner for Indus waters also received a letter from its Indian counterpart stating that the data was being shared under the treaty. “However, they clarified that they are not ready to discuss or renew AFIA that was signed in 1989 that binds it to share with Pakistan the routine flood situation on a daily basis from July 1 to Oct 10,” Mr Memon quoted the letter as saying.

Sutlej expected to be in high flood today

He said India had been avoiding renewal of this agreement for the past couple of months. Similarly, he said India even avoided sharing water flow data with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty since May this year. It finally shared it to some extent on Tuesday.

“Thirty years ago, Pakistan and India had signed AFIA under which the latter was bound to share water discharge data in the eastern rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — from July 1 to Oct 10 each year,” he added.

Mr Memon said the AFIA was signed keeping in view the release of 400,000 cusecs water in Ravi in 1988. “The IWC binds India to inform Pakistan in advance only if there is any extraordinary floodwater discharge/release situation.

So India fulfilled its responsibility in 1988 floods. Later, Pakistan had in 1989 requested India to have an agreement for sharing all sorts of flood-related data with Pakistan from July 1 to Oct 10 each year,” he added.

He said the Indian counterpart didn’t show any interest in conducting annual meeting under the treaty that was scheduled for May in New Delhi. “Though we continue giving them reminders in writing on a weekly basis regarding convening of the meeting under the treaty, they are using delaying tactics,” he said.

Meanwhile, River Sutlej is expected to be in high flood at Ganda Singhwala (Kasur) as water released by India from its dams will cross it during the early hours of Wednesday morning (today), says the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) of the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Water flow in the eastern river given to India under the Indus Water Basin Treaty depends on the releases by India from the river’s Bhakra Dam and Pong over River Beas, which merges into Sutlej in Kapurthala, Indian Punjab.

FFD chief meteorologist Dr Azmat Hayat Khan said on Tuesday India released 158,000 cusecs of water from both the dams, mainly from Bhakra Dam, around 24 hours ago. The FFD was expecting the releases in view of the chances of the filling up of both dams due to torrential rains over catchments of the rivers last week.

He said the discharge at Ganda Singhwala from where Sutlej enters Pakistan was 48,000 cusecs (low flood) at 4pm, adding that the level was rising and the discharge was expected to reach 100,000 cusecs by Tuesday evening. It is likely to peak to 140,000 cusecs (high flood) on Wednesday morning. The level will then start gradually falling afterwards.

The peak will reach Sulemanki on Aug 23. The discharge will initially be 70,000 to 90,000 cusecs (medium flood level) but is expected to increase to 130,000 cusecs (high flood) late in the night.

The flow at Islam Headworks will be around 70,000-100,000 cusecs (low/medium flood), starting from the night of Aug 26.

Officials in the Punjab government said the flow in Sutlej could be problematic for those settled in and round the riverbed. Nevertheless, all measures have been adopted to protect them.

The FFD said the Indus at Guddu was in medium, and at Taunsa and Sukkur in low flood. All major rivers will remain in low-to-medium flood over the next five to seven days. There are no chances of any significant rain during this week as the moist (monsoon) currents from the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal were cut off on Tuesday. The trough of westerly wave over Kashmir and adjoining areas also moved away eastwards.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2019