ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prevailing irrigation water shortage surged close to 45pc on Tuesday, compelling the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) to request the provincial governments to “plan in advance the utilization of available supplies in the river system efficiently, cautiously and judiciously during the dip”.

In view of the ‘alarming water situation’, Irsa also asked the provincial irrigation secretaries to place carefully estimated rationalized indents (water requirement order by provinces) without any wastage till the improvement of water situation is seen in the first half of June 2022.

Irsa informed the provincial irrigation secretaries in a joint letter that currently 40-45pc shortage was being distributed among Punjab and Sindh at the rim-stations, “resultantly a massive dip is likely to hit the Indus Basin Irrigation System with a lag time of about five to 15 days to the provinces” due to zero storage in the reservoirs.

As a result, Punjab is being given 65,000-cusec water against its current share of 113,000 cusecs. Likewise, Sindh is being provided 66,000 cusecs against its share of 116,000 cusecs. Exempted from application of shortages, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are being supplied their full share of 13,000 cusecs and 3,000 cusecs, respectively.

Officials said the major challenge had emerged in Jhelum and Chenab rivers where river flows were 45pc lower than this year’s estimate. The Jhelum river flows at Mangla were currently at 27,000 cusecs against last year’s flows of 55,000 cusecs, while the flows in Chenab were at 24,000 cusecs against last year’s 38,000 cusecs.

On Tuesday, the total inflows at rim-stations were recorded at 144,800 cusecs against 156,600 cusecs reported a day earlier and 10-year average of 230,400 cusecs. Irsa said this clearly depicted that the system had entered yet another dip as expected and intimated on May 20.

It said the situation was due to peculiar weather conditions in the upper catchments of the rivers, causing Skardu maximum temperatures to tumble from 28°C on May 19 to between 21°C and 16°C and sustaining there for the past four days. “The ensuing low inflows have stressed the already almost empty storages with combined live storage of 0.191 million acre feet against 10-year average of 3.238 MAF,” Irsa stated.

The individual live storage at Tarbela was reported at zero (dead level 1,398 feet), meagre storage of 0.168 MAF at Mangla (1,083 feet) and Chashma storage of 0.023 MAF (likely to touch nil storage in the next 24 hours).

With the latest situation, a meeting of the National Assembly standing committee on water resources has been called on Wednesday to take up a report of the committee it had constituted two weeks ago to inspect barrages and monitor water discharges at Taunsa, Punjnad, Guddu and Sukkur barrages and related canals to address provincial grievances about water shares. The committee is expected to submit its findings to the NA panel on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Balochistan minister for irrigation Mohammad Khan Lehri along with irrigation secretary Abdul Fateh Bangar called on federal minister for water resources Syed Khursheed Shah and complained that Balochistan was being subjected to shortages against the Irsa’s water allocations despite the fact that the province along with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were exempt from application of water shortages due to infrastructure constraints.

They informed Mr Shah that water shortage in the province would negative affect agricultural and dairy output.

The federal minister assured the irrigation minister and secretary of Balochistan that the provinces would get their due water share after improvement in the river flows and negligence, dishonesty and theft would not be tolerated in water distribution, according to an official statement.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2022

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