ISLAMABAD, Sept 4: The federal government on Saturday decided to impose a 28 per cent cut on provincial water share for the remaining 26 days of Kharif and start the Rabi season with a 43 per cent water shortage.
Irsa secretary Sohail Ali Khan told reporters that an advisory committee meeting had been convened on Saturday in view of precarious water situation of dams.
He said that water storage at Tarbela dam and Mangla dam was 45 per cent and 36 per cent lower than average storage, respectively, and it was for the first time since the construction of Tarbela dam that the two dams were not full at this stage.
He said the advisory committee meeting of Irsa was followed by another meeting of Irsa with Water and Power Minister Liaqat Ali Jatoi. The decisions of the two meetings were later conveyed to another meeting presided over by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
The advisory committee meeting was presented three options. First, save about five MAF of water for Rabi by imposing a 49 per cent cut on provincial share during the remaining period of Kharif.
Second, cut provincial share by 37 per cent in the remaining period of Kharif and save three MAF for the Rabi season.
Third, to impose a 30 per cent cut on provincial share in Kharif and save two MAF for Rabi.
The three options were discussed in detail and both Punjab and Sindh insisted that their standing crops were at the stage of maturity and these should be saved from devastation.
Both the provinces were of the view that about 2-3 MAF of water should be saved for the Rabi season and the leftover should be provided to the provinces during the remaining period of Kharif because they could sustain even 60 per cent water shortage during the coming Rabi season.
Accordingly, it was decided that Punjab would be provided its water share according to its indents till September 10-12 and then be supplied water on run-of-the-river basis.
Similarly, Sindh would be provided dam water till September 25 and then be supplied water on run-of-the-river basis.
The decision was conveyed to Water and Power Minister Liaqat Ali Jatoi who directed to save four MAF of water for the Rabi season. In this case, Mr Sohail said, the provinces would face a water shortage of 43 per cent at the start of Rabi season.
He said Punjab, on an average, has been utilizing 6.197 MAF water in the month of September in the last five years and Sindh 5.614 MAF. With 43 per cent cut, Punjab and Sindh would now get 3.66 MAF and 3.09 MAF water, respectively, during the month of September.
The Irsa secretary said that even during the 2001 drought, Punjab and Sindh had been able to receive 5.893 MAF and 5.435 MAF, respectively. As such, there would be an average shortage of 28 per cent during the month of September.
Till August 31, 2004, the average shortage has been about 10 per cent.