Sindh rejects Irsa’s plan of monitoring flows at barrages

Published June 11, 2021
The government of Sindh, through irrigation secretary Mohammad Saleem Raza, on June 9 addressed a letter to the Irsa chairman straight away rejecting the programme of flow monitoring from June 8. — Photo courtesy Kohi Marri/File
The government of Sindh, through irrigation secretary Mohammad Saleem Raza, on June 9 addressed a letter to the Irsa chairman straight away rejecting the programme of flow monitoring from June 8. — Photo courtesy Kohi Marri/File

HYDERABAD: Sindh government has rejected the proposed programme of monitoring flows’ measurement at barrages of Sindh and Punjab without first initiating due process of consultation over it.

The programme has been proposed by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) amid heightening tension between the two sides over water distribution during periods of shortages.

Official sources said that Sindh has stayed back for the time being by not sending its nominations for a tripartite monitoring of flow measurement at barrages in the two provinces on the ground that “showing haste would result in errors, wastage of time, efforts, resources”.

According to them, Irsa issued the June 8 discharge measurement schedule without taking confirmation, mutual understanding for selection of monitoring sites/agency, conducting measurements, exchanging standard operating procedures (SOPs) for discharge measurement and discussing methodology.

Preparing and following SOPs/ToRs stressed to achieve objective

The government of Sindh, through irrigation secretary Mohammad Saleem Raza, on June 9 addressed a letter to the Irsa chairman straight away rejecting the programme of flow monitoring from June 8.

“Without a consultative process and convening of meetings of stakeholders the programme of flow monitoring on barrages of Sindh and Punjab starting from June 8 is straight away rejected,” stated the secretary in the letter, copies of which were addressed to Irsa’s Sindh member, Wapda’s member water at Lahore and others concerned.

Referring to the May 27 meeting chaired by the prime minister, Mr Raza noted that the “meeting had also discussed that distribution of irrigation water under 3-tier formula is in utter violation of Water Accord 1991”.

The secretary through his June 7 letter has taken exception to the June 6 correspondence by Irsa secretary Khalid Idrees Rana wherein the Irsa officer had taken view — in response to Wapda GM’s letter of June 4 — that “convening a tripartite meeting at this stage will only result in unnecessary delay to complete objective of discharge measurements. It is very pertinent to mention that as of June 6 losses from Chashma to Kotri (barrages) are 36,000 cusecs while there are gains of 3,500 cusecs from Mangla (Dam) to Panjnad.”

The Irsa secretary said that situation demanded immediate discharge measurement on “Indus main stem” on a priority basis along with all other sites. He issued a plan of discharge measurement asking Wapda, Irsa, Punjab and Sindh to mobilise their teams to ascertain factual position in line with PM Office’s letter.

The Sindh irrigation secretary disagreed with such contention, saying that maximum losses were observed in the Taunsa-Panjnad and Guddu reaches (Punjab’s area). He said 18,000 cusecs (19pc) water losses were reported in 294km area between Taunsa and Guddu barrages whereas these were 11,000 cusecs (23pc) between 565km reach falling between Guddu and Kotri barrages.

“It shows water losses in Sindh are less than Punjab despite double the distance, low gradient, wider riverine area and heavy silt deposition per unit length,” according to the irrigation secretary. He said Irsa’s figures wrongly showed unusual higher losses in Sindh.

“Information regarding flows and utilisation on Jehlum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej rivers is being camouflaged and Mangla [dam] is being exclusively used for commands of Punjab’s canals despite severe shortage in Sindh,” he said. According to Mr Raza, post-Taunsa Barrage Indus River spreads widely and meanders that increases travel time and leads to conveyance losses more than rivers in steep topography of upper Indus basin and over-reporting at barrages could not be ruled out as has been detected repeatedly by visiting teams from Sindh.

The secretary also contested Irsa secretary’s point of “gains of 3,500 cusecs between Mangla and Panjnad” while contending that “addition by tributaries in upper Indus basin being utilised and residual part reported as gains shall properly be incorporated in water accounting system considering contribution as a central resource”.

He advised the Irsa secretary to take this fact into account prior to levelling any allegation against drought-ridden riparian Sindh.

Tentative plan of discharge management

Sindh government took notice of the “tentative plan of discharge measurement” issued by Irsa. Irsa wants water calculations while using Nespak-recommended value of ‘coefficient of discharge (Cd) — a technical irrigation water measurement formula — and Sindh irrigation department says value of Cd as determined by Nespak under “Improvement of Water Resources Management of Indus Basin to enhance capacity of Irsa 2015” is unacceptable to it.

Sindh irrigation experts, even Wapda, have shown wisdom to some extent while taking up tripartite monitoring plan with Irsa. “It is evident from Wapda GM’s June 4 letter addressed to Irsa chairman wherein GM says Wapda considers the task [tripartite monitoring] of immense important in context of issues over water distribution amongst provinces and is more than willing to put in its services/expertise as per essence of PM’s directive,” says an officer.

He said it was the Wapda GM who suggested to Irsa to convene a meeting of tripartite monitoring team/stakeholders and clearly delegate scope of work/ToRs to accomplish requisite job on a top priority basis. But, he said, according to Irsa secretary, GM’s suggestion of convening meeting at this stage would cause unnecessary delay to complete objective of discharge measurements.

“In fact Irsa secretary wants monitoring of barrages post Chashma (barrage) and not in Jehlum-Chenab zone which is very crucial from Sindh’s viewpoint. Water losses are higher on Punjab’s side although their terrain is rocky whereas despite having higher temperature in Sindh and fully alluvial terrain, losses are lower in Sindh,” he said.

Strongly disputing Irsa secretary’s argument of “3,500 cusecs gains” between Mangla [Dam] and Panjnad reach, he explained: “These are basically inflows of tributaries of river Indus nowadays and not ‘gains’ in any manner as claimed by secretary”.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021

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