ISLAMABAD: The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has convened an unusual meeting of its advisory committee on Thursday to persuade provincial governments to partially give up their water shares in order to conserve water for crucial pre-harvest watering requirements.
A water and power ministry official told Dawn on Sunday that the provinces must decide whether they wanted to help save water or utilise their full shares of irrigation water now.
He said providing full shares to the provinces and depleting dams in the process was hardly an option now.
He, however, indicated that Irsa would have to strike a balance through minimal cuts in provincial shares and effective conservation measures to save water for the days ahead.
In view of the critical situation, the authority has invited officials of Pakistan Meteorological Department and Wapda besides provincial irrigation secretaries to the meeting.
According to sources, river flows have declined drastically in recent days owing to a drop in temperature in Skardu and the adjoining areas after rain there. As a result, the crisis is deepening by the day, threatening to create a situation like that of 2004.
“We want to avoid that but need the provinces’ cooperation,” an official said. In 2004, the dams could not be filled during summer months. In later months the country faced a full-blown crisis.
He said that Tarbela had less than 1.4MAF of water at the moment, which was about 1MAF less than last year.
The water level in the dam was at 1,441 feet on Saturday against its dead level of 1,378 feet, which meant that only 52 feet of water could be used for irrigation.
River flows in Indus at Tarbela stood at 176,000 cusecs against its outflows of 160,000 cusecs. This meant that authorities were saving only 16,000 cusecs of water at Tarbela dam against much higher usual flows. Usually, river flows remain around 250,000 cusecs upstream Tarbela during July, suggesting lower flows of about 75,000 a day this year.
Likewise, inflows in Jhelum at Mangla normally hover around 45,000-50,000 cusecs in July but these have dropped to about 26,000 cusecs now. The water level in Mangla dam stood at 1,179 feet on Saturday against its dead level of 1,040 feet.
Flows in Jhelum at Mangla were recorded at 26,164 cusecs against outflows of about 15,000 cusecs. This meant that only 11,000 cusecs were currently being conserved against usual conservation of over 25,000 cusecs.
The situation in Kabul river is no different with flows at Nowshera at around 37,000 cusecs against usual flows of more than 55,000 cusecs. Water flows in Chenab at Marala were recorded at 58,000 cusecs.
Total inflows upstream rim stations were recorded at 300,825 cusecs against outflows of 272,800 cusecs, which meant that a total of 28,000 cusecs were currently been stored in all the reservoirs.