Punjab opens TP link canal despite objection from three smaller provinces

Published May 26, 2021
The TP link canal was first opened on May 4 but was closed when Sindh’s member protested over its opening. — APP/File
The TP link canal was first opened on May 4 but was closed when Sindh’s member protested over its opening. — APP/File

HYDERABAD: Punjab has reopened Taunsa-Panjnad link canal despite a vote-based decision against its opening and amidst water shortage that is persisting in Sindh ever-since the start of Kharif season.

The TP link canal was being provided 500 cusecs of water from Tuesday for which the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) had taken a decision by 3-1, opposing its opening.

An unpleasant incident is reported have occurred in Irsa’s Tuesday meeting in Islamabad where the Sindh member, Zahid Junejo, was allegedly insulted and humiliated by Irsa Chairman Rao Irshad Ali Khan after the former asked why the TP canal was opened despite a majority decision against its opening. Mr Junejo argued that Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had

voted against it in Irsa’s May 24 meeting.

“I was insulted and humiliated by the chairman in today’s meeting when I argued over opening of link canal. The Irsa chairman threw a book towards me during the course of the meeting observing that he didn’t want to indulge in this foolish discussion [with me],” said Mr Junejo over phone from Islamabad.

Sindh member feels humiliated by Irsa chairman at meeting, wants to resign

Zahid Junejo has informed all those concerned in Sindh government about the incident. “I can’t work in such a hostile environment where I am humiliated. I have spoken to all concerned in Sindh government,” he said.

Mr Junejo said he had just disagreed with the chairman’s contention about opening of Rangpur regulator for drawing water through the TP link canal. He added that chairman’s argument was that the regulator existed since 1960 and he produced a drawing in support of his argument. “I said it’s a drawing done by contractor and is not approved. This infuriated the chairman,” said Mr Junejo.

Karachi-based irrigation sources told Dawn that Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah spoke to Mr Junejo as the latter decided to resign on the grounds that he could not work in such a hostile environment. “The Sindh CM has spoken to Mr Junejo and advised him to continue his work,” said the source.

Meanwhile, Sindh Irrigation Secretary Saleem Raza Khuhro has said that such an aggressive attitude of the Irsa chairman is totally uncalled for.

“The chairman should resign as he is holding an important position in a national-level body. There have been complaints from outgoing member Mazhar Ali Shah against the same chairman,” said Mr Khuhro. He said such a short-tempered man should not be leading this body any more now. He said the Junejo episode proved that Mazhar Ali Shah was also humiliated in the past.

Mazhar Ali Shah, an elderly man, served in Irsa as Sindh’s member for a long time. He was replaced by Mr Junejo early this year. Mr Shah’s matter was raised at a virtual meeting of National Assembly’s standing committee on water recently. Nawab Yusuf Talpur, being the committee’s chairman, had chaired it. Rao Irshad, who was attending the meeting from Islamabad, initially denied having behaved like this but then apologised to Mr Shah.

Water shortage

The TP link canal was first opened on May 4 but was closed when Sindh’s member protested over its opening. A dip in the system had already affected water flows in Sindh. Now the link canal is being operated again. On Tuesday, the Sindh barrage authorities assessed water shortage at the province’s barrages at a little over 42.28pc. According to these statistics, Guddu Barrage reported shortage at 39.52pc, Sukkur at 29.47pc and Kotri at 58.27pc.

Balochistan is, however, being provided 14.44pc which is over and above its allocated share under the Water Accord while Sindh is absorbing the entire shortage. Sindh is getting 59,000 cusecs or so against its allocation of 77,400 cusecs at Guddu — the first barrage over Indus in Sindh — under Water Accord as per third 10-dailies (May 21 to May 31). Sindh has otherwise submitted an indent of 100,000 cusecs.

Balochistan’s share under the accord is 2,540 cusecs but it is being provided 3,240 cusecs through Desert Pat Feeder (3,415 cusecs) of Guddu Barrage and 293 cusecs at Khirthar canal of Sukkur Barrage against the province’s allocation of 700 cusecs.

Wastage of water claim

Kotri Barrage chief engineer Haji Khan Jamali on May 18 responded to Irsa’s director (operations) Mohammad Khalid Idrees Rana’s April 18 claim about wastage of water downstream Kotri.

In his April 18 communication to Sindh irrigation secretary Mr Rana had termed little water flows downstream Kotri (8,263 cusecs) “wastage and in violation of para 14(c) and (3) of Water Accord 1991”.

He stated: “Irsa is releasing indented supplies to Sindh since start of 2021 season. However, Sindh is continuously escaping water below Kotri Barrage and to date 8,263 cusecs of water is released”.

He requested Sindh secretary that escapages below Kotri Barrage be immediately stopped and water available at Kotri be diverted to the canal system to avoid wastage during the crucial period of water shortages.

Mr Jamali disagreed with the Irsa director on the ground that the escapage being mentioned by him were in fact the leakages from the barrage that could not be sealed. “These leakages in fact tend to meet drinking water needs of water supply scheme of Pakistan army,” the CE argued in his May 18 letter.

He also reminded the Irsa director that while 10MAF water had to be released Kotri downstream, the same was not provided to check sea intrusion and protect Indus delta.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2021

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