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Water flow: Sindh`s position

February 06, 2010

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THIS year the Indus flow is expected to be the worst in the last five years, causing serious problems for the coming kharif crop in Sindh.

As of June, Sindh will suffer 34 per cent shortage as compared to 14 per cent by Punjab.

For this reason alone, Sindh feels justified in pleading for closing the Chashma-Jhelum flood canal, Taunsa-Panjnad flood canal, Panjnad link canal and Thal canal, which flow from the Indus.

This will help to reduce Sindh's problem because the crop season in the province begins earlier.

Owing to an abnormal fall in the flow of the Indus it is justified to demand that guidelines and major principles of recommendations of A.N.G. Abassi, head of the Technical Committee on Water Resources (TCWR), should be followed for operational criterion of Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad canals.

The report says “The lower Punjab tributary areas linked to the Indus through the Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad links cannot be treated as a permanent burden on the Indus main.

The link canals are inter-provincial canals and should be regulated as such.”

Instead of regulating these canals on the basis of the indent of one province, the Indus River System Authority should operate them on the basis of equitable distribution under the water accord on an all-Pakistan basis.

The recent construction of a 44 megawatt hydropower project on the Chashma-Jhelum flood canal, on the plea of power generation, would convert the non-perennial canal into a perennial one to irrigate lands in Khushab, Bakhar and Layyah districts and 2.1m acres of Cholistan.

This would intensify desertification in Sindh, ruining its agricultural economy and rendering a fatal blow to Tando Mohammed Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Matiari and Hyderabad districts after destruction of deltaic districts of Thatta and Badin.

It is unjust that four arid districts of Punjab should be irrigated at the cost of six fertile districts of Sindh.

Punjab is undertaking powerhouse construction, though Sindh rejected the project on June 20, 2009 terming it unfeasible.

The resolution by the Punjab Assembly in favour of power plant is an alarming message for Sindh. We appeal to the Punjab coalition government of the PML(N) and the PPP to refrain from creating confrontation between the two provinces.

Owing to the non-perennial status of the Chashma-Jhelum canal, Irsa had termed the Nepra licence for the project non-feasible.

The country is faced with a water crisis. Sindh is getting 40 per cent less than its due share. Any construction of a power-generation plant by Punjab on a flood canal would further deepen Sindh's sense of deprivation.

The Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad link canals and Greater Thal Canal, which were constructed only to be streamlined during floods, are being operated as regular canals.

Punjab is planning to make the Chashma-Jhelum canal perennial on the plea of operating hydro-power project. The Chashma-Jhelum canal continues to carry 22,000 cusecs and Taunsa-Panjnad canal 12,000 cusecs. This means Sindh is losing 34,000 cusecs of water.

This floodwater is now being diverted to irrigate Punjab districts through link canals which used to flow below Kotri, sustaining mangrove forests from Karachi to Kutch and the livelihood of millions of fishermen and farmers. At least two districts below Kotri have now turned barren.

The centre should ask Punjab to withdraw its projects, ensure release of at least 10 to 35 MAF water downstream Kotri and implement the water accord.

ZULFIQAR HALEPOTO
Convener
Sindh Democratic Forum
Hyderabad