KARACHI: One major human factor exacerbating the impact of extreme weather events in Sindh is an acute water shortage being caused by inequitable distribution of the commodity, extension of irrigation system in Punjab on the “false ground that excessive water is available” and high water losses in agricultural practices and irrigation system.
This was stated by farmers with whom Dawn spoke to over the impact of heat episodes that have struck the province in recent months, posing a threat to food security and water resources.
The months of March and April 2022, according to the Met department, were the warmest ever in six decades during which rainfall was 62 per cent to 74pc less than normal across the country.
Describing the situation alarming, farmers said Sindh was already getting water 50pc less water than its share under the 1991 accord. This shortage, they said, increased to 60pc to 80pc as water reached tail-end areas and would seriously affect crops including that of mango, banana and cotton.
Water shortages may affect mango, banana, cotton crops; Dadu, Jacobabad sizzle at 48°C
“Right now, water is unavailable not only for crops but also for drinking purposes,” said Syed Mahmood Nawaz Shah of Sindh Abadgar Board, adding that Sindh had few underground sources of sweet water and that, too, had depleted significantly.
The situation, he hoped, would likely to improve when the water being discharged from Chashma barrage would reach Sindh. “But, it would take 15 to 20 days. The situation is quite worrisome. Farmers also believe that it’s not the just quantity of water reaching us that should be monitored but also its quality.”
He also shared concerns at initiatives in Punjab that brought more land under cultivation while Sindh faced serious water shortages.
“An increase of 440,000 hectares of paddy, mainly in Punjab, since 2016 and an increase of sugar cane cultivation in that province is a clear indication of excessive water use. Paddy, in Sindh, is restricted to certain areas but in Punjab it is not. These are ‘high delta crops’ consuming almost double the water consumed in cotton,” he said.
Mr Shah also emphasised the need for reducing losses in the irrigation system. “Almost 50pc water is lost due to several factors including theft. Water shortages could be effectively addressed only if we are to reduce 10 to 15pc of these loses.”
Seconding his views, Masroor Soomro, a Dadu-based landlord, questioned the justification to increase cultivated area in Punjab when enough water was not available to sustain existing agricultural needs.
“We have data to prove when and how much water was stolen by Punjab. Unless, the government ensures the implementation of 1991 accord in letter and spirit, there is little hope that water situation will improve in Sindh,” he said.
Heatwave to persist for a week
Meanwhile, the Met department’s released its latest advisory according to which the current heatwave affecting central and upper Sindh is likely to persist for a week and cause a rise of 46-48 degrees Celsius in the daytime temperature.
The heatwave induced by a high pressure system is predicted to grip Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Badin and Umerkot next week and the daytime maximum temperature in these districts may reach 43-45°C.
On Saturday, the department recorded highest temperature in Jacobabad and Dadu (48°C), followed by Larkana (47°C), Moenjodaro (46.5°C), Shaheed Benazirabad (46°C), Padditan (45°C), Mithi (44°C), Sukkur (43.5°C), Hyderabad (43.2°C), Mirpurkhas (40.5°C), Thatta (41°C), Tandojam (40°C) and Badin (39.5°C).
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2022