Senate body wants telemetry system for fair water distribution

Updated 26 Sep 2020

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The meeting, presided over by Senator Shamim Afridi, took up a motion moved in the upper house of parliament by Senator Gianchand over complaints about water distribution. — APP/File
The meeting, presided over by Senator Shamim Afridi, took up a motion moved in the upper house of parliament by Senator Gianchand over complaints about water distribution. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s standing committee on water resources expressed concern on Friday over complaints by provinces about allocation of water and non-installation of telemetry system. It directed the authorities concerned to submit PC-1 of the telemetry system within 15 days.

The meeting, presided over by Senator Shamim Afridi, took up a motion moved in the upper house of parliament by Senator Gianchand over complaints about water distribution.

Mr Gianchand said there had been repeated complaints over distribution of water and inter-provincial harmony was at stake since the authorities had been unable to implement a telemetry project for almost two decades. The committee was of the view that distribution of water could not be fair unless the data was authentic.

Indus River System Authority (IRSA) chairman Zahid Abbas told the committee that a telemetry system was installed in 2004, but failed.

Importance of inter-provincial harmony emphasised

He said the total amount of water available for distribution among provinces was 118 million acre feet (MAF), but the actual average availability was 104MAF. He said after accounting for estimated shortage, the remaining water was distributed among provinces.

He said the availability of water could improve after construction of more dams. In reply to a question, Mr Abbas said the telemetry system installed in 2004 did not work due to technical problems.

The Irsa, through a World Bank loan, worked on the telemetry project again last year and two companies participated in the bidding. However, because of some technical issues, the Irsa decided to go for rebidding, but the World Bank objected to it and cancelled the loan.

A meeting at the ministry of water resources later decided to install the telemetry system through the Indus River System Authority’s internal resources.

The Irsa chairman stressed that Wapda should keep in mind experience with the previous telemetry system while preparing a PC-1.

“Irsa was established in 1994, but it did not have its own resources until 2012 when the government allowed a water use cess on provinces and nuclear power plants,” Zahid Abbas recalled.

He said the telemetry system required Rs670 million while Rs860m was currently available, collected through the cess. The water regulator was currently awaiting the PC-1 from Wapda.

The organisation’s member (water) told the committee that it would finalise the PC-1 in about 10 days. He explained that the delay in finalisation of PC-1 was due to incorporation of observations regarding the reasons behind failure of the previous system.

He said the revised design would ensure that there was minimum possible human interference.

The committee said the PC-1 of the project should be shared with the Senate panel because such commitments had been made in the past, but remained unfulfilled.

The standing committee constituted a sub-committee on a motion moved by Senator Samina Saeed in the Senate and subsequently referred to the committee about compensation to the affected persons of Tarbela Dam by successive governments since 1971.

Ms Saeed told the committee that about 84,000 acres of land was acquired by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) in Haripur, Mansehra, Swabi and Attock districts, as well as the tribal areas, during the Ayub Khan government in the 1960s for construction of Tarbela dam.

Work on the project started in 1971-72 and ended in 1985-86, but since then only 30 per cent of affected persons had been compensated, added Senator Saeed.

The Wapda member, however, challenged the statement, saying that his organisation’s record showed all affected persons had been compensated, but if anyone was left out the authority was ready to pay compensation to him or her.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020