With 50 per cent water shortage estimated for the Rabi season beginning on Oct 1, a parliamentary panel was informed about a move to bring the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) under the direct control of the prime minister to overcome bureaucratic red tape.
At a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources led by Shamim Afridi, senators from Balochistan expressed dissatisfaction over the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord and demanded a fresh accord and monetary compensation for utilisation of its water share by other provinces since 1991.
The committee expressed concern over the fund-raising drive for Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams, saying the Kalabagh dam was unnecessarily being dragged into the debate even though it was a controversial project and divided the nation.
Indus River System Authority (Irsa) vice chairman Raqib Khan said the technical committee of Irsa would meet on Tuesday (today) to finalise projections for water availability for the Rabi season, but preliminary estimates indicated the water shortage could be up to 50pc.
Preliminary estimates indicate 50pc water shortage for Rabi season
Senator Muzaffar Shah from Sindh said it was a very serious matter that farmers faced more than 35pc shortage in the outgoing Kharif season and the upcoming Rabi season would witness an even worse situation. Mr Shah, who was a signatory to the 1991 Water Accord as chief minister of Sindh, expressed concern that a study to quantify water requirements downstream Kotri for environmental protection had not yet been completed even after 27 years. He said the study was promised in the 1991 accord and it was wrongly given an impression that huge water quantities were going down the sea.
He was, however, reminded by Mr Khan that the study had been completed in 2005 and its findings were being implemented. The report could be provided to the senior senator, he said and reported that total water storage in reservoirs currently stood at 7.860 million acres feet against last year’s 10.04 MAF on this date and 11.38MAF of last 10-year average.
The committee directed to provide minutes of the Irsa’s technical and advisory committee to the senate panel so that farmers could be advised accordingly about the crop sowing. During the current Kharif season, Punjab faced 20pc shortage, Sindh 17pc, Balochistan 44pc and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 33pc. The total water shortage for Kharif crops was 21pc, the panel was told.
Senator Usman Kakar from Balochistan alleged that the water accord was not based on actual data and his province had serious reservations over its implementation as well. He said the year water accord was signed had 105MAF water in the system and allocations were made for 114MAF based on premise that a dam would be constructed soon.
Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini said the water accord and all water projects were focused towards the canal irrigation system without taking into account the water problems of arid zones across the country while thousands of people in Balochistan had been forced to migrate due to water shortage.
Senator Sabir Shah said the current process of constructing Diamer-Bhasha dam should continue and money under head of donation should be maintained in a separate account. He said focus on Diamer-Bhasha dam was being diverted for petty credit.
The Wapda chairman said he had proposed to the prime minister to bring Wapda under his supervision and made answerable to the people of Pakistan through parliament. He said President Ayub Khan used to call Wapda chairman in the morning and project director of Tarbela dam in the evening every day.
He said Kachhi canal was completed in 2008, but its 72,000 cusecs of water could never be delivered to intended barren land because the Balochistan government neither developed irrigation infrastructure nor allowed Wapda to link the Kachhi canal with Kirthar and Pat-Feeder. As a result, only 10,000 cusecs of water could be delivered and in the process Kachhi canal also suffered damage.
The committee’s chairman said that the discussion on building Kalabagh dam was going on to generate controversy and this issue should be stopped now. He said that Diamer-Bhasha dam would not be built if the issue of Kalabagh dam was not stopped.