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Pakistan

Sindh protests against release of water into link canals as province already faces shortage

By: Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti

KARACHI: Amid a severe dispute over the water crisis between Pakistan’s Indus River System Authority (IRSA) and Sindh government, another shortage of water has hit the farmlands of the province. The latest controversy emerged after IRSA, which regulates water sources of the Indus River informed the Sindh irrigation department about the reductions made in water share for the upcoming dry spell. Following the crisis, the Sindh government’s minister for irrigation Jam Khan Shoro urged the Indus River System Authority on Saturday “not to transfer water from Indus river to Jhelum-Chenab system through Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad link canals” as another shortage has already hit Sindh’s farmlands. The provincial government has questioned the conservation (storage) of water by IRSA in dams for the upcoming Rabi season at the cost of standing crops. It has advised IRSA “to compensate the water shortage Sindh has suffered by balancing water in coming ten dailies of late Kharif in a bid to recoup the damage caused to lower riparian and to avert a disaster which is in the offing”. The government has requested the IRSA chairman to provide water “to Trimmu and Panjnad canals” from Mangla dam instead of transferring water from Indus.
According to the statement of Sindh secretary irrigation Suhail Ahmed Qureshi, to IRSA chairman on August 21, it had failed to perform its prime duty of balancing shortages among provinces during the vital period of early Kharif sowing of crops (in Sindh). The letter, copies of which were also sent to all Irsa members, has been written in anticipation of water shortage due to the recent dip in the Indus river system, which is affecting Sindh more than others.

Kharif crops have been badly affected in command areas of the right bank canals of Sukkur barrage. Growers could not either get water for rice cultivation or received belated flows while the survival of rice seedlings faces threats in the wake of the present shortage. The secretary said that in times of severe shortage, if Sindh was to be provided water from Mangla dam — in case Tarbella dam was depleted fully — it would lead to tremendous (water) conveyance losses that “shall be in violation of para-14(c) of Water Apportionment Accord 1991, newspapers reported. Earlier, the chief engineer of Sindh’s Guddu Barrage has also advised growers not to go for paddy sowing in May and June as the barrage as well as the province are experiencing ‘worst water shortage in 60 years.’ The water shortage has also worsened Pakistan’s garrison city due to the depleting groundwater level and scorching heat. Water shortage in Rawal Dam and Khanpur Dam has also led to the crisis as both the dams have almost touched the dead level, The Express Tribune reported citing officials.

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