LAHORE: Punjab has questioned the criteria adopted for measuring water flows in River Indus by a sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Stan­ding Committee on Water Resources during a recent field visit to Taunsa and Guddu barrages, claiming the river point selected in Sindh was irregular while its representative was excluded from monitoring the flows at the regular point.

MNAs Khalid Magsi and Riazul Haq, Ministry of Water & Power Joint Secretary (Water) Syed Mehr Ali Shah along with representatives of Punjab and Sindh irrigation departments recently visited Taunsa Barrage in Punjab and Guddu as well as Sukkur barrages in Sindh to monitor water flows in a bid to address the water dispute between the two provinces.

A senior official of the Punjab irrigation department told Dawn on Saturday that no irregularity was observed at Taunsa as the water discharge reported by the province was found to be true during monitoring by the NA body, and no objection was raised by Sindh over the water flow.

But Punjab objected to the selection of an irregular section at Guddu, 300-foot downstream, as the measured discharge was far less than that reported by Sindh at the barrage on May 15 and the corresponding discharge reported at Sukkur on May 16, said the official.

Water flow takes around 24 hours for transmission from Guddu to Sukkur.

He said against the reported discharge of 44,000 cusecs, the monitoring team found the flow (at irregular riverbed point) to be 34,000 cusecs, a difference of 10,000 cusecs or minus 22.7 per cent, on May 15. Whereas Sindh irrigation authorities reported the water flows downstream at Sukkur at 38,000 cusecs the next day (May 16).

“How come water discharge increases downstream instead of a decrease due to seepage and evaporation factors? Keeping in view the water losses reported by Sindh during transmission, our estimates suggest that the flow at Sukkur should have been between 28,000 to 30,000 cusecs,” the Punjab official suggested.

“We demanded a joint observation at the uniform riverbed section to address the anomaly, but instead the Punjab representative was dismounted from the boat and not allowed to join the monitoring at Badani point, a regular section in the Indus,” he claimed.

The official said outflows at Sukkur Barrage could not be measured due to ‘mal-regulations’ at Guddu Barrage in the past 10 days, while Punjab’s request for measuring flows in Pat Feeder and Ghotki canals was also rejected by the sub-committee, saying it was short of time and would do so in the second phase of the monitoring process.

No date has yet been set for the second phase of the field visit, he added.

He complained that the standing committee also did not consider the request for postponing its meeting held on May 25 because neither the Punjab irrigation secretary nor the minister was available to present the province’s point of view.

He said it had been decided that the committee would finalise its report after threadbare discussions with representatives of all the stakeholders, but the committee’s ‘one-sided’ proceedings were leaked to the media in which an impression was given that the distortion in water flows between Taunsa and Guddu were because of theft of the commodity in Punjab by water mafia.

Indus Water Treaty talks

Meanwhile, a five-member delegation, headed by Syed Mehar Ali Shah, is scheduled to visit New Delhi to attend the 118th meeting of the Indus Commission pertaining to sharing of waters between India and Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960.

The delegation will leave through Wagah on Sunday (today) and return on June 1 through the same route after a two-day meeting on the supply of advance flood information, and finalise and sign the annual report of the commission.

Habibullah Bodla, chief engineer of the Punjab irrigation department; Pakistan Meteorological Department Director General Sahibzada Khan; Nespak General Manager Khalid Mahmood; and Saman Muneeb, director of the India desk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are the other members of the delegation.

A member told Dawn that New Delhi had stopped sharing advance flood data since 2018 and they would request the Indian side to resume information-sharing for preventing or at least minimising casualties and financial losses downstream.

Both the sides will also discuss the 100-megawatt Pakal Dul, 48MW Lower Kalnai and 624MW Kiru hydropower projects being constructed by India on the rivers allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty, he said.

Pakistan had earlier raised objections to the designs of the three projects during a visit of the Indian delegation to Islamabad in March, terming them a violation of the provision of the Treaty.

The official said if their concerns were not addressed then the matter would be referred to the higher authorities for talks or taking it to the neutral expert and International Court of Justice.

Pakistan has also objected to the construction of nine other projects, with 25MW capacity each, most of which are on River Indus in Ladakh.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2022

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