ISLAMABAD: As the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) on Monday increased water release to the Punjab and Sindh, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government accused Sindh’s ruling party of stealing over 39pc of the provincial water share.
Water shortage for the two major provinces dropped to 18pc from almost 32pc last week, as temperatures rose in the catchment areas of major water reservoirs — Mangla and Tarbela.
Irsa’s spokesman Khalid Idrees Rana said the water regulator met here to review the overall water situation and increased the water supply to Sindh and Punjab on the basis of improved river flows.
He said the total water inflows at rim stations that stood at 172,000 cusec on May 28 had increased to 225,000 cusec on May 31, showing an improvement of about 24pc.
On the basis of better water availability, Mr Rana said Punjab’s share was increased to 101,000 cusec from 83,000 cusec last week, showing an increase of about 18,000 cusec.
Likewise, Sindh’s share was increased from 74,000 cusec last week to 109,000 cusec for next 10 days, showing an increase of 35,000 cusec.
The Irsa spokesman said the river flows were continuously rising following increasing water temperatures in the northern areas that help speed up snow melting. He said the Irsa was constantly reviewing the fluctuations in the water situation and would stand ready to make adjustments when required as per provincial needs.
The authority also moved a case to the Ministry of Water Resources to appoint independent inspectors at eight major headworks and barrages with the consent of Irsa members from Sindh and Punjab to monitor water discharges. The inspectors to be co-opted from Wapda would inspect five discharge points nominated by Sindh – Jinnah Headworks, Chashma Barrage, Taunsa Headworks, Tarimmu and Punjnad barrages – and three suggested by Punjab – Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages.
The sources said that it was decided to hire the services of Wapda officials with the consent of the provincial representatives, as the funding would be provided by Irsa.
PTI parliamentary leader in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Shaikh, who was accompanied by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Farrukh Habib and Punjab Irrigation Minister Mohsin Leghari, addressing a news conference alleged that Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other ministers of the provincial government were trying to use Sindh card on water.
He alleged that the PPP leadership was creating inter-provincial acrimony.
Mr Shaikh said Irsa had given a detailed presentation to members of Sindh Assembly and it was very clear that no discrimination had taken place against Sindh.
The PTI leader insisted that water shortages were caused by low rainfall, reduced river flows due to low temperatures and water theft in the Nawabshah area, where Sindh’s ruling elite had agricultural land.
He argued that the prime minister had ordered provision of 30pc share in Ehsaas funds to Sindh against its share of 22pc, therefore, he minister could not allow any injustice to any province.
He said Para-14(d) of the Water Accord had allowed the provinces to use their allocated water share according to their needs. It stated the provinces would have freedom within their allocations to modify system-wise and period-wise uses, he added.
According to the PTI leader, 13pc water loss was taking place in Sukkur, 30pc in the Kotri area, where he said most of the lands were owned by leaders like Khursheed Shah and Zardaris. He alleged that on the eve of the recent elections in Badin, 19 illegal water connections were given in the Imamwah area to bribe local landlords and 330 outlets were given downstream Sukkur.
He said small farmers were not getting the irrigation water as people in official corridors were stealing their share.
Irsa last week wrote letters to the Sindh irrigation authorities about 50pc water losses between Sukkur and Kotri region, he pointed out, but said no action was taken. He said Nawabshah was the centre of power that had no interest in Bhuttos’ Larkana that was turning into a desert.
He was of the opinion that the PPP was creating a situation over water shortage to divert public attention from corruption cases of its leadership.
Punjab Irrigation Minister Mohsin Leghari claimed that water losses in over 2,000 miles of canals in the province was only 8pc which was compensated by 2pc water gains in areas close to Koh-i-Sulaiman.
However, the Punjab minister alleged that more than 39pc losses were taking place in just 600 miles of Sindh. Based on the 39pc losses, Sindh was drawing 139pc of its due water share, he said.
Mr Leghari claimed that when representatives from Sindh on Sunday raided Punjnad, they found that water records reported by officials posted there were 100pc correct. Also, a team of Irsa and Sindh visited five other headworks in Punjab and found all figures correct.
However, when Irsa and Punjab team visited Guddu for surprise inspection, the executive engineer (XEN) did not turn up and sub-division officer (SDO) refused to the meet the team, while a lower official said neither gauges were functional nor recording registers were available and claimed that reporting of water flows was based on their estimates.
The minister said Punjab had so far faced 22pc water shortage against its share compared to 17pc shortage faced by Sindh since the current season had started, yet the PPP leadership was creating a situation as if Punjab was a usurper.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021