HYDERABAD: A high-profile team comprising federal and provincial ministers from Balochistan, Indus River System Authority (Irsa) chairman and members as well as top officials visited Sukkur barrage on Saturday to discuss water availability in the wake of the province’s complaint that it is not getting the required water flows.

They discussed the water flows threadbare, particularly from Balochistan’s point of view, at the Sukkur barrage, where officials briefed them about water flows statistics and the percentage of shortage that Sindh province was bearing currently at its three barrages when it was peak time of Kharif sowing of paddy crop in non-perennial and perennial canals.

Irsa chairman Zahid Junejo, who is from Sindh, along with Punjab member Amjad Saeed, Balochistan member Hameed Mengal, KP member Zahid Abbas, water resources joint secretary Mehar Ali Shah, Federal Minster for Science and Technology Agha Hassan Baloch, Balochistan Irrigation Minister Mohammad Khan Lahri, Balochistan irrigation secretary Fatah Mohammad Bhangar, Sindh special secretary irrigation Jamal Mangan, chief engineers of Sukkur left and right bank canals as well as Guddu barrage and MNA Khalid Magsi were present.

The team visited the barrage to assess the situation after some federal ministers and national assembly members representing the province had shared their concerns with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over unavailability of water flows in their province, followed by a meeting in Islamabad on Thursday.

Balochistan’s representatives pressed the point that 6,000 cusecs of water flows should be provided to the province from Guddu barrage and 2,400 cusecs from Sukkur barrage to which they were told if this was to happen, then Sindh needed to have 115,000 cusecs of water upstream of Sukkur barrage with a pond level of 204. “And requirement of 2,400 cusecs of water demand is in line with three-tier formula that Sindh resists and doesn’t agree to. If this quantum is to be provided then 115,000 cusecs must be provided to Sukkur barrage upstream,” remarked one official.

Balochistan gets its share of water through Garang regulator of Kirthar canal of Sukkur barrage at RD-102 and from Pat Feeder’s RD-109 of Guddu barrage. Currently, Balochistan province was being provided 571 cusecs at Garang regulator against allocated share of 2,200 cusecs (74pc shortage) and 3,549 cusecs at RD-109 of Pat Feeder against allocation of 6,400 cusecs (43pc shortage) as per Water Accord.

Mehar Ali Shah, according to a participant of meting, suggested that since water flows Chashma barrage downstream were increasing and they would reach Guddu barrage in next two to three days, Balochistan’s quantum of flows should be increased to 6,000 cusecs from Pat Feeder.

Chashma barrage downstream flows were recorded at 110,000 cusecs on Saturday. The barrage is recording a rise of flows with 100,000 cusecs plus flows from June 12. Sindh special secretary said flows for Balochistan would be increased gradually.

Sukkur and Guddu barrage officials informed the team an overall 65.5pc water shortage was still being observed at Sindh’s three barrages. Guddu barrage alone has recorded 78.5pc water shortage on June 18. “CE Guddu informed meeting that Begar Sindh feeder of the barrage remained closed. Water needed to be provided to Ghotki Feeder where cotton crop is sown and paddy’s cultivation is banned. If water is not provided for salvaging cotton crop then it will lead to another crisis,” said one official.

Likewise, the visiting representatives were informed that rice canal being non-perennial canal was not getting required flows for paddy cultivation. It is getting 1,100 cusecs of flows which are hardly sufficient for drinking purposes. Sukkur barrage’s shortage was recorded at 55.45pc and 69.8pc of Kotri barrage.

Sukkur barrage was having 42,070 cusecs of flows against allocation of 56,000 cusecs while Kotri is having 10,274 cusecs flows against allocation of 32,460 cusecs under the accord.

It was also suggested by one Sindh official that Rangers deployment should be sought for ensuring water flows availability to Balochistan through Pat Feeder canal without incident of any water theft.

The visiting functionaries later left the barrage. The report will be submitted to federal minister for water resources Syed Khursheed Shah, who would forward it to the premier.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2022

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