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Govt hints at doing away with 2004 water-sharing mechanism

Govt hints at doing away with 2004 water-sharing mechanism

ISLAMABAD: As a special committee of irrigation experts was constituted to measure water flows in Sindh’s barrages, Water Resources Minister Syed Khursheed Ahmad Shah on Thursday hinted at doing away with a 2004 water distribution mechanism, currently in place, to address Sindh’s grievances.

“We will ensure that all provinces are given their water share in accordance with the Constitution and the (1991 water apportionment) accord. They will also face the shortages as per these shares so that Sindh does not complain that it is facing a higher shortage than Punjab,” Mr Shah said in a policy statement on the floor of the National Assembly.

Sindh has been criticising the 3-tier water distribution mechanism among the provinces in cases of water shortage and demanding its withdrawal. The matter had been pending before the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for well over three years although a legal opinion from the Ministry of Law had supported the 3-tier formula.

The formula adopted a cascading distribution to face shortages and exempted two small provinces — Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — from application of estimated water shortages because of their existing irrigation infrastructure constraints.

Hence, the estimated shortages had to be shared by the two larger provinces — Sindh and Punjab — which Sindh believed put it in a disadvantageous position to the extent of 4 million acre feet in Kharif season.

Mr Shah said the situation was really serious and had not been seen after 1961 water shortage. He said there was acute water shortage which was an issue of animals, humans, agriculture and the national economy but the good news was that it would be overcome by June 15 — 30 as temperatures in northern areas was rising.

He agreed that tail end of Sindh and Cholistan suffered the most at present but the entire country was in the grip of water shortage.

The water resources minister said it was a humanitarian issue caused by heavenly reasons and all should jointly pray for improvement. He appealed to the Punjab government to release 300 cusecs from Chasha barrage for Cholistan and if need be other arrangement would also be made.

On the other hand, on the request of Mr Shah, the National Assembly’s standing committee on water resources formed a committee comprising representatives of the Centre, Punjab, and Sindh to monitor recording of water discharges at Guddu and Sukkur barrages and their canals.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2022

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