HYDERABAD: Sindh’s member on Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has urged Irsa to close Chashma-Jhelum link canal and opposed attempts to open Taunsa-Panjnad link canal before ensuring the province’s indent of 80,000 cusecs has been met and sufficient storages have been made in Tarbela and Chashma.

The Irsa member Zahid Junejo said in a letter, which was also sent to Sindh irrigation department, Irsa members from Balochistan, federal government and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that he strongly opposed any bid to open the T-P link canal at a time when neither Sindh’s indent for water supply had been met nor water availability had improved in the province.

A source in Sindh government said that the newly appointed Sindh member had written the letter on May 8, which said that Sindh was already feeling the impact of sudden dip in supplies caused by unwarranted opening of link canals, resulting in shortage of water. The areas like Badin, Tharparkar and Thatta and even Karachi were being deprived of fresh drinking water, he said.

He said that Sindh did not have any objection to withdrawal of allocated share of Punjab as per shortage. As far as less utilisation by Punjab during early Kharif period was concerned, it was due to late beginning of sowing season in Punjab which started 45 days after it began in Sindh, therefore, utilisation should naturally be lesser during this period, he argued.

So far as the opening of the link canals was concerned, it was mandatory that the indent for Sindh’s water supply had been met and sufficient storages had been ensured in Tarbela and Chashma before considering the move, he said.

He said that release of flows downstream Kotri barrage as per Water Accord 1991 should be ensured and the lower riparian should be taken into confidence over such decisions.

Memon had written a separate letter to Irsa chairman and members of Irsa, earlier, which discussed Sindh’s concerns over opening of Chashma-Jhelum link canal.

He said the link canal was opened and run at a time when Sindh was facing shortfall in water supplies and Sindh was compelled to reduce flows in Sukkur left bank canals up to 70pc.

He reminded Irsa chairman that cotton sowing was in full swing and every drop of water was vital for Sindh. It was necessary for farmers and economy of Sindh to have ample supplies of water at this juncture, he said.

Besides, he said, Sindh was planning to provide water to Kotri barrage for rice sowing by June 1 and at a subsequent stage to command areas of Sukkur and Guddu barrages.

At this critical time, he explained, running of C-J Link with a discharge of 2,000 cusecs would cause further reduction in flows for Sindh and create unrest in farming community coupled with scarcity of drinking water in lower riparian and creating a deficit of trust over Irsa.

He urged the authority to close C-J link canal and ensure indent of 80,000 cusecs of Sindh had been met without delay to protect rights of the lower riparian.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2021

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