LAHORE: Regretting what he called point-scoring by the Sindh government, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said on Tuesday the PPP-ruled province’s objection to the supply of more water to Punjab is inaccurate, mentioning that additional flows were diverted to Sindh at the time of sowing of crops there.
Presiding over a meeting on water reserves and availability in the province, Buzdar said that now when crops were being sown in Punjab, hue and cry by Sindh was preposterous.
He said making water a political issue was contrary to the national interest, as water shortage was a technical issue that could be resolved through the constitution of joint teams comprising representatives of Indus River System Authority (Irsa), Punjab and Sindh.
Punjab could divert its water share to any canal according to the need and tested gauges had also been placed in Punjab to compile water data, he said.
SACM, minister allege issue being politicised
On the other side, the CM pointed out, there was no verified record of the collection of water data in Sindh.
Provincial ministers Mohsin Khan Leghari, Hussain Jehanian Gardezi, secretaries of irrigation and agriculture departments and others attended the meeting that was also given a detailed briefing on the prevailing water situation in Punjab.
The chief minister regretted that Sindh refused to install a telemetry system despite agreeing to do so earlier.
He alleged the Sindh government was quoting wrong data on the water issue and that because of its mismanagement water was still being released into the ocean from Kotri downstream.
He said the Punjab government had sent a letter to Irsa, asking it to depute inspectors for ensuring correct reporting on water.
“How can the issue of water shortage in Karachi be linked with Punjab as it has always taken care of every other province as an elder brother,” Buzdar said, adding that politics on water issue was not appropriate for anybody.
Sindh Irsa member’s ‘misbehaviour’
Regretting the ‘misbehavior’ of Irsa’s member from Sindh during a meeting of the authority in Islamabad, Punjab has urged the leadership of the southern province not to “politicise” the water issue “despite getting three times more water than Punjab”.
At a press conference here on Tuesday, Irrigation Minister Mohsin Leghari, Agriculture Minister Hussain Jehanian Gardezi and Special Assistant to Chief Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan condemned the attitude of Irsa member from Sindh and said the technical issue of water sharing between the two provinces under the 1991 Accord was being “deliberately politicised”.
They said Punjab was facing 22 percent and Sindh 17pc water shortage for the Kharif season. Irsa data revealed that up till May 20 Punjab got five percent less water than Sindh, they added.
They called upon Irsa to immediately review this “fact” and ensure a fair distribution of water among the provinces on the basis of data.
They said “inequitable” distribution of water was not only detrimental to Punjab’s important crops, including cotton and paddy, but also to the overall food security of the country.
Mr Leghari said that the “violent protest” of Sindh’s Irsa member on the issue of opening the Taunsa-Panjnad link canal was uncalled for as the National Assembly’s standing committee on water resources had decided a day ago that under para 14(d) of the 1991 Water Accord, Punjab had the right to release water into the TP Canal from its share to make available water for sowing of crops in over 125,000 acres of command area of Lower Rangpur Canal.
He cautioned that cotton production would be hit badly if water was not supplied to the Punjab’s cotton belt in time.
He also demanded Sindh leaders should agree to resolve the water dispute under the Water Accord instead of attempting to gain “political mileage” out of it.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2021