PM Shehbaz urged to address Sindh’s water crisis

Published May 20, 2022
HYDERABAD: The Indus riverbed, where torrents once flowed, now resembles a large puddle downstream from Kotri. Umair Ali
HYDERABAD: The Indus riverbed, where torrents once flowed, now resembles a large puddle downstream from Kotri. Umair Ali

HYDERABAD: An MNA from Sindh has urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take a fresh look at the country’s water situation and called for protecting the sanctity of the 1991 water accord to address disputes between provinces.

Nawab Yousuf Talpur, who is also the chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Water Resources, made the request in a letter on Thursday.

He also asked the premier to redress Sindh’s grievances and the workings of the Indus River System Authority in the larger interest of the people of Sindh and federal harmony.

In the letter, written against the backdrop of severe water shortage in Sindh, he quoted water discharge figures that were discussed in a technical committee on water resources formed during the military regime led by Pervez Musharraf.

Mr Talpur said the issues he was raising were of larger and long term importance.

He said it was noticed with concern that many water projects were being worked out in the upper Indus basin based on the global climate change agenda without considering the water requirements of the existing canal commands of Sindh and Balochistan. These requirements were allocated under the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991.

Being a lower riparian province, Sindh is highly susceptible to fluctuations in rivers, whereas Balochistan has no direct approach to Indus River and thus entirely depends on water reaching Guddu and Sukkur barrages.

Besides, due to the flat topography of the lower Indus basin, it’s impossible to raise the pond levels required to give Balochistan its allocated share.

Mr Talpur said that a three-tier formula was developed in May 1994 under which the distribution of shortages was made on the so-called “historic-use formula”. However, it was annulled by the water ministry in October 2000, but unfortunately, water distribution was not being done as per provisions of the water accord, particularly during shortage periods, he said.

On Irsa, the MNA said the authority was not complying with government orders for running its business according to its mandate under the 1991 accord.

According to a table shared by Irsa in the Musharraf-era technical committee meeting and reflected in its 2005 report, Punjab got even more accord-based allocations, Balochistan and the then North-West Frontier Province were exempted from sharing shortages, whereas Sindh alone bore the brunt of water shortages.

He said Irsa still used the “unjust formula” and the federal government should take steps to ensure the authority operates strictly within the scope of the 1991 water accord.

The existing method of water distribution based on the three-tier formula was a flagrant violation of the accord and should be annulled immediately, he said, adding that the distribution of shortages and surpluses should be made on the basis of the water accord and daily statements approved by the Council of Common Interests.

In view of the historical controversy among the upper and lower riparian provinces, it was imperative to take a close look at the whole issue again, Mr Talpur said and urged the prime minister to intervene.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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