Sindh Needs Water; social media uproars as irrigation canals turn dry

By: Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti

The water crisis in Sindh has intensified due to dangerously low water reserves in Sindh. The canals are closed and the situation has become worst.  Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has advised the farmers in Sehwan not to cultivate rice in view of water scarcity as rice cultivation requires a lot of water. The bone-dry crops and canals with sands in their beds resulted high hue and cry in the province and people on social media staged protest on the social media under the hashtag of #SindhNeedsWater. People on social media mentioning that the scarcity of water is no doubt somehow natural but the criminal mismanagement, negligence and injustice by IRSA has mad the situation worst for Sindh province. The same thoughts were reflected in the press conference of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Sindh Irrigation Minister jam khan Shoro saying that the acute water shortage in Sindh was the result of mismanagement by IRSA as 991 Water Accord was not being implemented in letter and spirit.

Not only on the social media forums but Badly hit by the water shortage, farmers in Sindh and Balochistan have also begun protesting on roads and staging sit-ins outside irrigation offices. During the peak season of Sindh, the flow of water in the Indus River is too low to meet the needs of the canal during the cultivation of summer crops, where water scarcity is affecting the cotton crop in particular. Cotton crop production in Sindh started improving after production of 3.5 million bales in 2021 as against 1.8 million bales in 2020. According to the Director General of Sindh Agriculture Department, the target for sowing cotton crop was 640,000 hectares as against only 243,200 hectares till May 6. In the same period last year, the crop was sown on 378,800 hectares which is a decrease of 21% in area. If severe water shortage persists, it may decrease further.

Experts say that if the situation continues like this, there will be a danger of famine in Sindh. Due to shortage of water, water supply for cultivation of cotton and other crops has been stopped. On the other hand, due to drying up of canals in TandoAllahyar, lands became barren. The groundwater level fell after the use of boring by the farmers. According to the control room in-charge of Sukkur Barrage, there is a shortage of water due to deficient rainfall. Barrages in Sindh have a total water shortage of 53% which was 25% last year. According to experts, if there is no rain, the crops will be damaged. Rahim Yar Khan’s locals say that we have to spend Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 per tanker for drinking water. Chloe, who is one of thousands of small farmers who are suffering from severe water shortages in Sindh. Due to development work in Tunnel III and Tunnel IV in Tarbela Dam, the water level was at dead level in February 2022, since then the water deficit in the entire system has been recorded since the initial season of Kharif.

Sindh Minister for Irrigation Jam Khan Shoro said that we had told Indus River System Authority (IRSA) that if work on Tarbela Dam was started then Sindh would not get water for the initial season of Kharif but we have a wider interest. Were willing for He said that water scarcity has become severe in Sindh and water distribution is not being done under 1991 agreement. Officials monitoring the availability of water at Sukkur Barrage on a daily basis warned that the situation could worsen in June if the upper catchment does not rise in temperature and there is no rain. He explained that the current shortage of water is due to the shortage of water in Chashma Barrage, where the first influx of water comes from the Kabul River.

The reduction in the percentage of water scarcity has been compared with the allocation of water as per the agreement on the basis of 10 days of water flow on May 1.Guddu Barrage had 37,554 cusecs of water flow on May 3, 35,683 cusecs on May 4, 33,252 cusecs on May 5 and 29,819 cusecs on May 6. Kotri Barrage, the last barrage on the Indus, to the left of which rice sowing has already begun. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah advised the farmers in Sehwan not to cultivate rice in view of water scarcity as rice cultivation requires a lot of water. Another official said that IRSA has increased the flow of the spring which was 60,000 cusecs on May 4, 70,000 cusecs on May 5 and 72,000 cusecs on May 5. The effects of this flow were seen in Sindh a week later.

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