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HYDERABAD, July 14: Sindh’s major farmer organisations have criticised the Punjab Water Council’s reaction to their objection over untimely water releases into Chashma-Jhelum link canal, which had aggravated water shortage in Sindh.

They termed the council’s arguments irrelevant. The Water Apportionment Accord of 1991 had never been implemented in letter and spirit, complained Abdul Majeed Nizamani, president of Sindh Abadgar Board.

“Had the accord been implemented, surplus water and shortage would have been shared by all recipients equally,” he said.

He said that Chashma-Jhelum link canal was a flood canal and could not be operated without consent of lower riparian, he said.

Under a ministerial decision in 1994, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were exempted from sharing shortages but Musharraf regime referred the decision to law ministry that declared it null and void but the arbitrary decision was still in action, he said.

Whenever there was shortage Punjab demanded water on the basis of historic usage and whenever it was surplus it raised no objection to distribution of water under the same accord, he said.

Mr Nizamani argued that Sindh did not and would not object to filling Mangla dam provided the province was first supplied water for Kharif. “It is an established principle that water needs at downstream barrages are to be met first before upstream.

“But when Mangla is filled this point is ignored and Sindh is denied water from the reservoir,” he said.

He disputed the council’s statement that Punjab was outnumbered in Irsa and said “the PWC makes a reference to the condition that federal nominee on Irsa must be Sindh domiciled. If Sindh get only one extra vote, Punjab gets two votes of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan on the basis of the 1994’s ministerial decision, which was taken to win their votes,” he said.

If Punjab argued it was contributing 80 per cent to the country’s agrarian economy and Sindh 20 per cent, it would mean Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were producing zero in agriculture sector, he said.

The three rivers Ravi, Sutlej and Bias which were handed over to India used to account for 24MAF water but in their place Punjab gets 33MAF from national water resources. “But, not a single drop of water had been released to Kotri downstream over the past 21 years,” he said.

Non-release of water downstream Kotri has destroyed ecology, bio-diversity and flora and fauna of Indus delta, which belongs to the entire country, he said.

SAB General Secretary Mehmood Nawaz Shah said the council’s arguments over CJ link canal were confusing. “I don’t understand what relevance these points have with regard to shortage in Kharif season in Sindh,” he said.

He criticised the council’s statement that everybody “seems to claim a right on Tarbela and Mangla” and said that these water reservoirs were national assets and everybody [provinces] did have a right over them, said Mr Shah.

He rejected the council’s argument that Mangla was dependent ‘purely’ on snow melt and said “every dam is dependent on melting of snow”.

The reference to the Indus Basin Water Treaty of 1960 was misleading because it described water distribution between two countries and not provinces.

“Punjab is storing water in Mangla for its Rabi crops and at the same time transferring water from Indus to irrigate command areas of Mangla in Kharif season that are to be fed by Mangla,” he said.

He said it was disturbing to see that while Sindh needed water for its Kharif crops right now it was being stored in dams for Rabi season. “Why don’t you give us water when we badly need it for Kharif crops,” he said.

He said that when the council itself said on July 10 that “impact of increased water supplies will also reach Guddu in next seven days” it meant that water would take more time to reach Sukkur and then Kotri barrages and then to actual farmlands.

“By then it will be end of July or early August, which means the lower riparian will get water only after fulfilment of demands of upstream and filling of dams,” he said.

Filling of a reservoir should only be allowed when water is surplus and demand at barrages fulfilled, he said.

Even after passage of half of Kharif season, a 30 per cent shortage persisted at Kotri barrage which had led to losses and hindered cultivation of rice, he said.