ISLAMABAD, Sept 14: India has closed Chenab water flow and as a result the shortage in Pakistan has become more severe.

Sources told Dawn on Sunday that the water blockade by India could adversely affect the Kharif crops, particularly cotton and sugarcane which were in maturity stage and required final watering, and the sowing of Rabi crops early next month.

They said that the Pakistan Indus Water Commission had taken up the matter with the federal government and convened a meeting on Tuesday to take stock of the situation and try to reach a diplomatic solution with New Delhi.

If the Chenab closure prolongs, the sowing of Rabi crops, particularly wheat, would be hit severely.

The government had to import more than two million tons of wheat this year despite a record production of more than 23 million tons.

The water shortage could force Pakistan to import more wheat next year, adding to the foreign exchange pressure and worsening its balance of payments crisis.

The authorities are already estimating more than 35 per cent shortage of irrigation water during the next Rabi season following a decline in the melting of snow in Northern Areas, higher withdrawals by provinces during Kharif and increased hydropower generation.

The sources said India’s unilateral decision to stop the Chenab flows had put additional pressure on the irrigation system of Pakistan, which used to receive more than 23,000 cusecs a day until last week, but it had now been brought down to almost zero.

Meanwhile, the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has convened a meeting of its technical committee on Sept 20 to ascertain the overall water availability for the Rabi season, beginning on Oct 1.

Irsa’s advisory committee will meet on Sept 25 to finalise provincial shares for Kharif on the basis of estimates to be put forth by the technical committee, Irsa chairman Bashir Ahmed Dahar told Dawn.

Responding to a question, he said Irsa had powers and capacity to resolve the issues of water sharing and discharges in consultation with the provincial governments and it had never sought federal government’s intervention to prevail upon one province or the other to accept its decisions.

Exercising these powers, Irsa has increased releases from the Mangla reservoir for Punjab’s final watering by 10,000 cusecs to about 39,000 cusecs. On the other hand, Punjab continued to draw about 49,000 cusecs from Tarbela against its share of about 40,000 cusecs.

Once higher releases from Mangla reached the system, Punjab’s share from Tarbela would be reduced to 40,000 cusecs, the sources said. Irsa had asked Punjab last week to reduce withdrawal by 8,000 cusecs from Chashma-Jhelum canal, but it continued to draw about 18,000 cusecs till Sunday.

The sources said releases in CJ-Link would be reduced to 10,000 cusecs on Monday or Tuesday to preserve reasonable resources in the Indus System for Rabi crops.

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