Irsa to form joint committee to verify water losses data

Published April 17, 2021
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has decided to constitute a joint committee of all stakeholders to “verify seepage and conveyance losses data during early Kharif”. — PPI/File
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has decided to constitute a joint committee of all stakeholders to “verify seepage and conveyance losses data during early Kharif”. — PPI/File

• Allocates water share among provinces for early Kharif season on provisional basis
• Punjab, Sindh in a row over calculation of losses

LAHORE: The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has decided to constitute a joint committee of all stakeholders to “verify seepage and conveyance losses data during early Kharif” to enable it to allocate water shares to the provinces in “a less disputed way”.

The decision was made in a recent meeting of the Irsa Advisory Committee where Punjab and Sindh locked horns and disputed each other’s water calculations. This divided Irsa right down the middle — Balochistan supporting Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa putting its weight behind Punjab — and forced the authority to “allocate water share in early Kharif on provisional basis, pending constitution of a committee and its report”.

Punjab refused to accept Sindh’s version on water losses’ calculation of 35 per cent and distribution of water on the basis of this calculation. Citing historical data, Punjab insisted that these losses could not go beyond 20pc.

“According to Irsa’s data (1976-2000), these conveyance losses — due to sandy Indus bed, temperatures and flatter slope — had ranged between 15 and 20pc. At the turn of the century, Sindh started reporting much higher losses, taking the average to 30pc. In the last 10 years, this average has gone much beyond 35pc without citing any scientific reasons. How can these theoretical, irrational and very high calculations become basis for national water allocations,” Punjab’s representative was quoted as saying at the meeting.

According to him, a team of Punjab had visited Sindh barrages to monitor “gauging systems at the barrages and had found it missing” nor had data been as per standard operating procedures. The NESPAK had also conducted a study of the Sindh barrages and recommended some gauging procedures, which have not been implemented yet.

“Irsa must carry out a gain and loss study to ascertain exact magnitude of losses and meanwhile depend on the pre-2000 historical data for allocation of water shares among the provinces,” Punjab insisted.

As per Punjab’s calculation, Sindh’s calculation directly eats into other provinces’ shares. “If line losses of 35pc are accepted, Punjab would suffer overall 16pc shortage during the Kharif season. If they are brought down to 30pc, Punjab’s shortage would drop to 10pc and if the province’s stance (of 20pc losses) is accepted, its shortage would come down to only three per cent,” an official of the Punjab Irrigation Department explained.

The representative of Sindh refused to comment, saying that the calculations were not shared with him before the meeting, therefore, he could not comment on them. When Irsa insisted that the data was shared with the provinces at least a week before the meeting, Sindh’s representative did not budge.

The representative of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was of the view that 35pc losses appeared “theoretical” and therefore a study was needed to verify the data.

The chair was surprised to note that without any scientific reason, Punjab with 2,600 miles of canals was reporting less losses against higher losses reported by Sindh, which had only 600 miles of canals. “Increasing losses from realistic 20pc to unrealistic 35pc was (tantamount to) usurping the rights of provinces,” the chair said.

However, he finally agreed to Wapda’s proposal to ignore both Sindh and Punjab’s calculations and provisionally accept losses of 30pc — an average figure used since 1976 for water allocation — and constitute a joint committee for a quick visit to crucial sites to verify data and make recommendations on the subject.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021

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