Sindh rejects plan to revisit 1991 water accord

Published October 12, 2021
KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah discusses water issues with federal Minister for Water Resources Chaudhry Moonis Elahi and his team at the CM House on Monday.—PPI
KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah discusses water issues with federal Minister for Water Resources Chaudhry Moonis Elahi and his team at the CM House on Monday.—PPI

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday told federal Minister for Water Resources Chaudhry Moonis Elahi that the provincial government would not accept the so-called three-tier formula or any other water-sharing scheme except the 1991 Water Accord.

The chief minister also called for taking concrete measures to strengthen the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) so that it could implement the water accord in its true spirit and did not allow opening of link canals in the Punjab during early and late Kharif.

The offer to revisit the 1991 water accord was made by the federal minister during a meeting with the chief minister here at CM House.

Mr Elahi, whose party is an important ally of the ruling PTI in federal and Punjab governments, told Dawn after the meeting he had made the offer to redraft or revisit the 1991 water accord that he said had not been valid due to some wrongly perceived water resources. He claimed that since the 1991 accord was planned to build more water reservoirs, which unfortunately could not be made, time was ripe for a new water accord. He said he told the chief minister reaching consensus on new formula might be easy through Council of Common Interest (CCI) as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its allies had governments in the Centre and three provinces except Sindh.

CM tells federal minister to strengthen Irsa instead of redrafting CCI-ratified accord or planning three-tier formula

The federal minister assured the chief minister that more discussions on water sharing, strengthening of Irsa and protection of the Indus delta would be held to find a durable solution.

Mr Elahi said he told CM Shah that he had come to meet him as a federal government representative though he originally hailed from the Punjab. He said he was not in favour of reducing Sindh’s water share, assuring the chief minister that the matter could be discussed with other provinces as it was his basic obligation to look after the interest of all the provinces.

At the outset of the meeting, Mr Elahi said he had started meeting the stakeholders – provinces – to hear their point of view on the water-sharing scheme. He said he wanted to resolve all the outstanding issues amicably.

Mr Elahi was assisted by federal water secretary Shahzad Bangash, joint secretary Mehar Ali Shah and director Ashar Abbas, whereas the chief minister was assisted by provincial irrigation minister Jam Khan Shoro, planning and development chairman Hassan Naqvi, chief engineer of irrigation Zareef Khero, Irsa member Zahid Junejo.

While appreciating the federal minister and his efforts to resolve the water-sharing issue, CM Shah reminded him that the 1991 accord was approved by the CCI as it was acceptable to all the provinces. However, he said Irsa had failed to implement the accord and allowed the Punjab to open its link canals.

“Our grievance is very simple that we want the federal government to strengthen Irsa to enable the body to implement the water accord in its true letter and spirit,” he said.

Talking about Irsa’s role in water sharing, Mr Shah said it [Irsa] had failed to implement sharing in shortage as per indicated seasonal allocations of different canal systems as ratified by the CCI on September 16, 1991.

Three-tier formula

The chief minister, discussing the impact of the three-tier formula during Kharif, said the Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan would get more water if distribution was made as per three tiers. He elaborated that 73.68 million acre feet (MAF) of water was available and under the three-tier formula during Kharif, the Punjab would get 38.21MAF water, Sindh 31.80MAF, Balochistan 2.85MAF, KP 0.82MAF water.

Under the 1991 accord, he said, the Punjab would get 36.57MAF water, Sindh 33.49MAF, Balochistan 2.81MAF and KPK 0.80MAF.

“The difference between three-tier formula vis a vis 1991 accord shows that the Punjab would get 1.64MAF, Balochistan 0.04MAF and KPK 0.02MAF more water and Sindh would get 1.69 MAF less water,” Mr Shah said, adding that his government would never accept the three-tier formula as history showed that every successive formula had curtailed the water share of people of Sindh.

The chief minister also discussed downstream Kotri water escapade, making it clear that survival of the Indus delta was dependent on it.

While tracing the history of Indus river water distribution, Mr Shah explained that the Indus water had been put to irrigation use for centuries. “Initially there were inundation canals, withdrawals in these canals were dependent on the level of water in the river,” he said, adding that the first headwork was constructed on the Ravi River in Punjab during the 19th century. Afterwards, he added, several other headworks were built across the tributary’s rivers from 1882-1901 and the first barrage across Indus, namely Sukkur Barrage, was constructed in 1932.

However, after the construction of Sutlej Valley Canals Project in 1933, certain difficulties arose for sharing of water amongst the states of Bekanir, Bahawalpur, Khairpur and Punjab, he explained. “In order to resolve the issue, the government of India appointed Anderson committee in 1937,” he said, adding that the government approved its recommendations regarding water allocation of the then existing canal system and the proposed Thal Canal. In 1940, he added, the government [India] appointed Rau Commission on the complaint of Sind against proposed Bhakra Dam project of Punjab. “In the light of recommendations of Rau Commission, the negotiations between Punjab and Sindh were initiated in 1943 and during September 1945 an agreement was signed by the Chief Engineers of Punjab and Sindh. This is known as Sindh-Punjab Agreement,” CM Shah explained, adding that some financial issues remained unresolved till partition.

According to him, India in 1948 cut-off waters to some of Pakistan canals that had their headworks located in Indian territory. “After long negotiations, a treaty was signed by the two countries on Sept 30 1960, called the Indus Waters Treaty,” he said, adding that as per the treaty, full rights of utilization of water of three Eastern Rivers — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — were given to India.

“Waters of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab Rivers were given to Pakistan with some limited rights to India, he said. Following the Indus Water Treaty, the Pakistan government constituted four commissions in 1968, 1970, 1976 and 1983 but consensus could not be achieved, therefore, an ad hoc sharing arrangement in post-Tarbela period was made in 1976, Mr Shah elaborated on the water-sharing issues among the provinces.

The chief minister said that under the ad hoc arrangement then NWFP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) was allowed to take water as per its existing requirement and Punjab was given 33 per cent of water in Rabi and 50 per cent in early Kharif. “Sindh and Balochistan were given 67 per cent Indus water in Rabi and 50 per cent in early Kharif,” he added.

CM Shah said the Water Accord 1991 was signed by the provinces on March 16 and was ratified by the CCI on March 21, 1991.

About allocations given under the 1991 accord, the chief minister said the Punjab was given 55.94MAF or 47.7 per cent water including 37.07MAF (46.8pc) water in Kharif and 18.87MAF (49.4pc) in Rabi. “Sindh’s share came to 48.76MAF (41.5pc) including 33.94MAF (42.9pc) in Kharif and 14.82MAF (38.8pc) in Rabi. The KP was allocated 8.78MAF (7.5pc) water and Balochistan 3.87MAF (3.3pc) water,” he added.

The chief minister said the 1977-82 Annual Average System Uses (AASU) were considered a guideline according to the water accord (Para 14-b) for developing 10-daily uses of the allocations mentioned in Para-2 of the accord to fulfill the requirement of accord according to Para-14-a.

Comparing the 1991 water accord and AASU 1977-82 with respect to Sindh-Punjab 1945 agreement, Mr Shah said the Punjab had taken 48.33MAF water under Sindh-Punjab agreement of 1945, got 54.55MAF water under AASU and 55.94MAF under the 1991 accord.

The figures showed that the Punjab had got 15.75pc more water than its share, he added.

However, Mr Shah regretted, Sindh received 48.74MAF under 1945 agreement, 43.53MAF under AASU and 48.76MAF under the 1991 accord.

Waseem Ashraf Butt in Gujrat also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2021

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