‘Sindh is facing worst water shortage in 60 years’

Published May 30, 2021
INDUS River downstream Kotri is seen almost dry on Saturday.—PPI
INDUS River downstream Kotri is seen almost dry on Saturday.—PPI

HYDERABAD: In the wake of the decision taken by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) on Saturday to apply 32pc shortages for Punjab and Sindh, the Guddu Barrage chief engineer has advised growers not to go for paddy sowing in May and June as the barrage is experiencing “worst water shortage in 60 years”.

He said growers could go for nurseries’ preparation in July while anticipating improvement in water flows.

His advice is being circulated through media in view of the ongoing water shortage at three barrages of Sindh. Among the three, the Kotri Barrage is bearing most serious shortage ie 50.44pc.

Sindh’s three barrages are bearing with 36.94pc water shortage as of today (May 29) which undermines cotton crop that has been sown in areas wherever water is made available for the early Kharif.

Growers told not to go for paddy sowing before July

Irsa’s Sindh member Zahid Junejo says everyone hopes water situation improves in view of rising temperature in upper reaches that may lead to improved water flows. “But currently, wherever cotton is grown or paddy nurseries are prepared, crops are affected due to water shortage that has been going on for a long period,” he says.

According to Mr Junejo, Sindh has always pressed one point as far as water distribution is concerned. “Give us water in line with the Water Apportionment Accord 1991. We don’t accept three-tier formula which is bone of contention,” he says.

He disagrees with the viewpoint of Punjab, which accuses Sindh of providing fudged figures. The situation is so bad that people have started crying for drinking water, what to talk of irrigation, he says.

“We check water flows at every point. Formation of a committee is now likely with consent of Sindh and Punjab. It would be entrusted with monitoring of water discharges through independent inspectors,” he says. He dismisses Irsa and Punjab’s claims whereby Kotri downstream flows are termed “wastage of water”.

“People live downstream Kotri and their water needs are met,” he says, adding that describing it as “wastage” is simply not understandable. Kotri Barrage chief engineer has responded to a communication dated April 18 from Irsa’s director operations over his claim on escapages downstream Kotri and the chief engineer’s letter is self-explanatory, says Mr Junejo.

“Last year, allowable losses were 35pc but these have been revised at 30pc which are again a loss for Sindh. That’s why Sindh says transit losses between Taunsa and Guddu are exceptionally higher and explains that gradients are not steeper and temperature remains exceptionally high there.

“Indus River reaches Guddu in a braided form and meanders with the result that 100 miles distance becomes a 300 miles distance,” he says.

Mr Junejo claims that around 50,000 acres of land is irrigated in Punjab’s riverine area out of the water flows released for Sindh.

He regrets that “when we [Irsa] decided by 3-1 in its May 24 meeting that the Taunsa-Panjnad link canal should not be opened, it was opened by Punjab to the great disadvantage of Sindh, where farmers have lost their early sowing of Kharif crops considerably”.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2021

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