HYDERABAD: Close to 50 per cent irrigation water shortage is being experienced at Sindh’s two main barrages — Sukkur and Kotri — while Guddu Barrage is facing 38.43pc shortage, according to formula laid down in the Water Apportionment Accord 1991.

At Guddu, shortage-wise, its main canals — Begari Sindh (BS) feeder and Desert Pat (DP) feeder — are getting zero flows, which means 100pc shortage. It is followed by 85.37pc shortage in Rice, 78.67pc in Dadu, 72.26pc in North Western, 51.65pc in Khairpur Feeder East, 50.38pc in Khairpur Feeder west, 37.90pc in Rohri and 35.16pc in Nara canals of Sukkur Barrage.

At Kotri Barrage, 69.04pc shortage in Old Phuleli, 61.80pc in New Phuleli and 59.24pc in Akram Wah is being experienced. Kalri Baghar feeder is, however, being provided flows for feeding Karachi by barrage authorities.

On an average, Guddu Barrage is facing 38.43pc shortage, Sukkur 47.96pc and Kotri 47.48pc. The shortage is being attributed to dip in flows in early May. Shortage in Desert Part Feeder of Guddu or NWC of Sukkur Barrage is to undermine water availability for Balochistan as per its share.

Fourteen canals of Sindh’s barrages, like irrigation canals in Punjab, are supposed to receive water share allocated in the Water Accord. These are called ‘ten dailies flows’, which mean certain quantum of flows are to be ensured for the first, the second and the third 10 days of months like April, May, June etc.

“The impact of dip is now being felt in Sindh,” said a Sukkur Barrage official. The major dip in flows was seen at Taunsa when 45,447 cusecs downstream flows of May 3 were reduced to 33,666 cusecs on May 4.

“Taunsa-Panjnad (TP) link canal was also opened on May 4 with release of 1,361 cusecs flows to aggravate the situation as Chashma-Jehlum link canal was already in operation,” said the official. Later Taunsa flows improved but only gradually, he said.

Before reduction in flows, a dip had already been seen at Chashma Barrage where 51,939 cusecs flows of April 30 dropped to 44,127 cusecs on May 1. Then downstream flows of 10,154 cusecs at Panjnad on May 4 dropped to 7,744 cusecs on May 5.

The above-mentioned flows at Taunsa, Panjnad or Chashma downstream otherwise form part of flows of Indus River to head for Sindh and reach Guddu Barrage upstream. The net effect of such inadequate flows’ situation is felt subsequently at Sindh’s three barrages due to different travel timings between one barrage and the other.

April 1 marks commencement of Kharif crops’ cultivation in Sindh. Given sowing pattern, Sindh has early Kharif sowing trends and sowing in Punjab begins relatively late thus cries for water flows in Sindh in early Kharif make sense.

Mismanagement, however, by Sindh irrigation department of whatever flows are received here, undoubtedly, make matters worse for growers.

However, at a time when river flows were witnessing fluctuation, opening of link canals, Taunsa-Panjnad (TP) and Chashma-Jehlum (CJ), did raise eyebrows, prompting Sindh’s member on Indus River System Authority (Irsa) to write a letter to Irsa chairman, seeking closure of TP link canal, which was eventually closed.

Before TP link’s opening, CJ link canal was already being operated since April 21 as per irrigation flows figures. CJ canal got 1,042 cusecs flows on April 21 which increased to 2,000 cusecs on April 22 continuing to date.

“When a dip is seen its impact is to be borne by entire system subsequently. What was the need of operating TP link canal at a time when Sindh was facing shortfall in flows? This canal was already lying closed and it could have been kept closed for some more time and why such haste is shown in operating it. It was just unwarranted,” commented a Sukkur Barrage official.

Sindh’s member on Irsa, Zahid Junejo, pointed out that the dip’s impact in system could have been absorbed by releasing stored water from Chashma Barrage which acted like a dam.

He said flows at Panjnad were availed by Punjab as per its share to which Sindh had no objection. “CJ is to be operated when Sindh’s indents for water flows are fully met,” insists Junejo, former managing director of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA).

Punjab runs CJ link canal to draw water for Greater Thal canal (GTC) that has a share in Water Accord. Sindh’s grievance is that when early sowing in Sindh is a permanent phenomenon, lower Sindh farmers must be provided water for cultivation by Punjab instead of pressing for opening link canals to draw water from Indus.

“Flows for CJ link canal are indeed accounted for but to me these are controversial. When sowing has not started in GTC’s command area what was the need of getting water for it? Link canal is to be operated when indented supplies are met at barrages’ canals and Kotri downstream flows are ensured,” said Sindh’s member from Islamabad.

According to him, CJ was operated by Punjab after a decision in Irsa based on voting in which we [Sindh] lost,” said Sindh’s member.

He said that when sowing season started in Punjab after a 45-day gap when compared with Sindh there was no need to operate CJ link canal as it would have a direct bearing on early Kharif sowing in lower Sindh region.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2021

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