ISLAMABAD: Pakistan may be facing about 12-19 per cent water shortage during the current kharif season despite significantly better than last year water availability.
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has convened a virtual meeting of its advisory committee on April 8 for approval of the anticipated water availability criteria for kharif. Irsa Chairman Rao Irshad Ali Khan, who is also member Punjab, will chair the meeting through a video-link.
A senior provincial government official said the total water availability at rim stations in the current season would range 105-109 million acre feet during kharif (April-September period). About 12-17 MAF water is anticipated to escape downstream Kotri. Taking into account conveyance losses, the total water availability for distribution among the provinces would, therefore, work out at 65-68MAF, depending on a decision of the advisory committee, the official said.
Based on these estimates provided by various stakeholders including Wapda, Irsa and provincial governments, the overall shortage during the season was anticipated at 12 to 19pc against provisions of 1991 Water Apportionment Accord. This means the water availability would be better than last kharif 2020 when the season started with a 35pc shortage.
However, two critical issues would confront the participants to decide upon and would have repercussions on the water supplies for the irrigation and resultant crops output.
First challenge for Irsa would be addressing the concerns raised by the Punjab government over 35pc losses in early kharif (April 1 to June 10) being considered for allocation of water shares. Punjab has taken the stance that system losses should not be more than 20pc unless justified through some professional study or Irsa’s technical consensus.
Even the greater challenge is the demand of the Wapda authorities that water conservation level at Tarbela dam should not be more than 1,470 feet against its maximum conservation level of 1,550-feet until June 10 in view of ongoing development works of two units of power stations T3 and T4 (Tunnel 3 & 4).
This constrains the filling potential of the dam under the technical criteria and a possible subsequent dip in river flows would hamper management of dam filling. The carryover storage in both dams at present is estimated at about 1MAF.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021