LAHORE: The country received 17 per cent less rains during the July 1-Sept 20 period this year as compared with the rainfall for the same period last year, further aggravating the water availability for Rabi season crops.

Sindh was the most affected province with 44pc shortfall, while Azad Kashmir received 24pc and Punjab 21pc less rains during the period under review. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were the least affected provinces with minus-4 and minus-1 precipitation as compared with the last year’s data.

“July was a normal month during the current monsoon season. The stress was created in August, which remained mostly dry. Rains are above normal in the ongoing month (September), but most of the precipitation is in the plains and not in the rivers catchment area where the rainfall has been severely deficient,” says Lahore Met office director Sahibzad Khan.

Total precipitation since the start of the year till Sept 20 has been measured at 207.4mm, around 22.4pc less than 267.4mm the country received last year during the same period.

Sindh, Punjab face 44pc, 21pc shortfall during July 1-Sept 20

An official of the Indus River System Authority told Dawn that Tarbela reservoir had attained its optimum level — 1,552 million acre feet (MAF) — on Sept 1. But it has depleted by 26pc during the last three weeks because the average inflow of water on a daily basis is 105,400 cusecs against the outflow of 130,000 cusecs.

The situation is more critical at Mangla dam, a mainly rain-fed reservoir that never went close to optimum capacity of 1,242 MAF this season, as half of it has depleted by Sept 21, the official said.

This has sounded alarm bells for the farmers of upper and central Punjab whose lands are irrigated either by canals emanating from the Mangla system or by tube-wells.

“The depletion of Mangla dam means we’ll have to depend more on subsoil water, for Tarbela water cannot be supplied to the Mangla command area as no canal network exists for the purpose,” said Ebad Khan, a progressive grower from Sheikhupura.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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