KARACHI: Pleading the case of Sindh government on persisting water shortage and seeking “adequate cusecs of water downstream,” Federal Minister of Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman on Saturday warned that the emerging challenge had put the province’s population and its agriculture and livestock sectors at risk. She urged all ministries “to work together before it’s too late.”
She referred to the “unfair” distribution of water among provinces and called for the implementation on 1991 Water Accord in its true spirit which, she said, was the only way out.
The federal minister said that not Sindh alone, but the entire country would risk damage in case of any threat to Indus River.
“Distribution of water in the country must be fair, timely and equitable, particularly in times of stress,” she said while addressing an event titled ‘Indus Expedition — the coutnry’s first ever full-length rafting expedition of the Indus River’ at Marina Boat Club. “Sindh, being at the tail-end of Indus River, is directly impacted by 60pc shortage of water, putting at risk the provincial population as well as its agriculture and livestock sectors. Due to the severe shortage, farmers are dangerously at a risk of losing their cotton, rice and other crops in Sindh.”
She cited the fresh data of Kotri barrage downstream, and said it should have an adequate 15,000 cusecs but, instead, less than 2,000 cusecs were being released. She called it “a grave calamity” to see that there was no river flow beyond Kotri.
“The region is home to a rich biodiversity of migrating water birds, fish and one of the last remaining species of freshwater dolphins,” said Senator Rehman. “The delta has shrunk to a shocking 92pc since the earliest it had been recorded. Dams and barrages have added to its shrinkage. There is little to no sediment that reaches the delta anymore which is resulting in saline-sodic lands in turn forcing people to migrate to cities that are already filled to the brim.”
She said a high level of urgency was required to protect the Indus River System and announced an “Indus recharge initiative” for which, she said, the policy framework was in the pipeline and would be released in June. But for the required results, she stressed the relevant ministries to work together before “it is too late.”
“The Indus River is Pakistan’s lifeline,” said the federal minister. “On priority, we need to regulate water flows annually downstream Kotri barrage. “The 1991 Water Accord needs to be implemented and water distribution needs to be fair,” she said, adding that it was the only way out to save dying Indus in Sindh. “If freshwater does not flow towards the delta, there is risk of a huge loss of biodiversity, culture and heritage,” she said.
Meanwhile, former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has termed the persisting water crisis in the country “Sindh centric”, and said that it had now developed into an intra-provincial dimension with southern Punjab also getting affected.
He said in a statement issued on Saturday, that the federal or provincial governments should make a complaint, under Article 155 of the Constitution, to the Council of Common Interests, which could eventually set up a commission comprising experts. A meeting of the CCI must be called within 48 hours,” he stressed.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022