LAHORE: The Punjab Irrigation Department has called for independent monitoring of barrages in Punjab and Sindh for water discharge measurement and urged the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) to control losses below the Kotri Barrage.
In a letter written to Irsa on Saturday, the irrigation department requested it to take immediate measures to control unprecedented losses between Taunsa and Kotri barrages leading to worsening of the water availability situation in the country.
It has also demanded independent monitoring of the barrages falling in both the provinces to weed out ‘reporting lapses’ in discharge measurements in Sindh barrages.
Punjab asks Irsa to control unprecedented losses between Taunsa and Kotri barrages
The Irsa Advisory Committee at its meeting held on April 8 had anticipated a shortfall of 10 per cent on the basis of average system uses. However, the actual water availability is way below the expectation as actual flows of Indus at Tarbela, Kabul at Nowshera and Chenab at Marala are short by 21pc, 29pc and 33pc, respectively, while overall river flows are 17pc short of the expected flows during the period between April 1 and May 20.
The letter regrets to say that instead of shifting to a revised water availability scenario, Irsa has been depleting the Mangla reservoir to meet provincial requirements in accordance with forecast availability. As a result, Mangla reservoir level on May 22 depleted to RL 1,111.70 ft against the expected level of RL 1,172.36 ft. This indicates that filling of the Mangla reservoir may not be possible during this Kharif period, it fears.
It says that Taunsa to Kotri water transmission losses are being exaggeratedly reported as over 39pc against the anticipated losses of 30pc. During this season until now, these reported losses between Taunsa and Kotri translate into 1.2 MAF which is almost twice as much as the combined storage of both Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs at present.
As per record, the average losses in the Indus zone during the period 1977 to 1999 were only 11pc which increased to 21pc during the period from 2000 to 2020. “The record also shows that the increase in losses is due to incorrect reporting of discharge from Sindh’s barrages,” the letter says.
The reporting lapses in Sindh are also evidenced by the fact that in the Chashma to Taunsa reach, Punjab has actually reported gains of 2pc against the anticipated losses of 30pc. In the present circumstances, the current and expected shortages can only be controlled by reducing losses in Taunsa to Kotri reach, stresses the communiqué.
“In the given scenario, Punjab demands that correct discharge tables are immediately implemented at Sindh barrages and teams comprising Irsa members conduct personal visits and ensure that compliance is made within the next week.”
In addition, Punjab also demands that Irsa’s officers or any other third-party arrangement is permanently placed at Marala, Panjnad and Taunsa barrages in Punjab and Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages in Sindh by the end of next week to correctly report discharge measurements on a daily basis.
It also demands that water escapes below Kotri are immediately terminated and debited to water account of Sindh during Rabi 2020-21 (0.56 MAF) and during Kharif 2021 till today (0.052 MAF), while Mangla reservoir is filled as per original plan to the maximum possible extent.
In the letter, Punjab also points out that if Jhelum River supplies are continued to escape below Mangla to supplement Indus and Kabul Rivers supplies, the reservoir may fall below RL 1095.00 soon and, thereafter, it will be impossible to obtain a discharge of more than 38000 cusecs and in that scenario, the canals of Jhelum-Chenab Zone will suffer badly.
It is pertinent to mention that due to the closure of T.P link, Lower Rangpur Canal has not been run yet which is affecting the command area of 123,560 acres. Taunsa canals with a command area of 1,426,964 acres are also facing critical shortages during the sowing season of Kharif crops.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2021