Pakistan Agriculture News, Water

Crops at risk as more than 50% water shortage feared

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is expected to face acute water shortage in the upcoming Rabi sowing season as the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has informed a parliamentary panel that water supply will dip to less than 50% for crop cultivation.

Irsa officials told the Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources, chaired by Senator Shamim Afridi, on Monday that a meeting of Irsa’s advisory committee had been called to examine the availability of water for Rabi crops.

Irsa member from Sindh anticipated that water shortage would touch 50% during the upcoming sowing season, which would begin on October 1. The officials put the expected water availability for the Rabi season 2018-19 at 45%. In the current Kharif sowing season, total water shortage has been recorded at 21%.

Province-wise breakdown shows Punjab has faced 20% shortage, Sindh 17%, Balochistan 44% and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 33%.

Members of the standing committee asked Irsa officials about the volume of water provided to Sindh in the months of March, April and May. They also asked why Chashma, Jhelum and Thal link canals were running despite the acute water shortage.

These canals were opened without Sindh’s consent and the farmers had to suffer a heavy loss due to water scarcity, they said.

They alleged that Irsa was itself involved in unjust distribution of water among provinces and regretted that no study had been undertaken over the past 28 years on the quantity of water going into the sea. The committee members pointed out that thousands of acres of land had been destroyed in Thatta and Badin due to sea encroachment and demanded that the people behind the negligence should be held responsible.

They were of the view that the Rabi season was about to begin and nobody knew the quantity of water available for crop plantations. They expressed fear that water shortage would have disastrous impact on the crops.

Responding to that, Irsa authorities pointed out that Pakistan had a natural system for water inflow and more water could not be produced.

Senator Usman Kakar stated that an unfair water distribution agreement had been reached with provinces. “It should have been based on a fair water distribution mechanism; a new agreement should be designed for the provinces,” he said.

He accused other provinces of consuming the water allocated to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and said no new barrage had been constructed in the province.

“Even Balochistan is not getting its 5% allocated share of water; water in the province has dried up and people are migrating to other areas due to the shortage,” Kakar said.

He lamented that the agriculture sector had been destroyed by the dearth of water and asked the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the matter. Senator Sabir Shah emphasised that the process of constructing Diamer-Bhasha dam should continue and money donated for the reservoir should be saved in a separate account.

The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) chairman recalled that development in the water sector had been made during the tenure of Ayub Khan and demanded that Wapda should be relieved of bureaucratic dominance. “Bureaucrats are not partners in the development,” he remarked.