A drop in temperature in the northern areas of the country has led to reduced water inflows in rivers and low water levels in major reservoirs, prompting the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) to possibly cut Punjab and Sindh’s water shares by up to 20%.
The body is expected to face strong resistance from the affected provinces.
A final decision in this regard is expected at Irsa’s special advisory committee meeting on July 21, chaired by Irsa chief Rao Irshad Ali and attended by provincial members of the body and irrigation secretaries of all four provinces.
Sources say Irsa’s only option is to slash the provinces’ water share since water stored in major reservoirs including Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma is 7% lower than the same period last year.
The three dams have a combined storage capacity of 12.1 million acre feet (MAF), but currently only hold about 5.4 MAF, according to data released on Saturday.
The authority may cut Sindh and Punjab’s shares by 11,000 and 5,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) respectively if a consensus is arrived at the advisory committee meeting.
After the reduction, Sindh is expected to receive 169,000 cusecs of water against its existing share of 180,000 cusecs, while Punjab would receive a reduced share of 113,000 cusecs of water against 118,000 cusecs.
There would be no cuts in shares of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they would receive 13,000 cusecs and 3,000 cusecs, respectively.
However, the shortage is expected to be temporary. A senior official of the Pakistan Meteorological Department said that 200 millimetres of rainfall was expected in upper catchment areas of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa that could ease the water shortage in major reservoirs.
The forecasted 10% more scattered rain in catchment areas could help fill the reservoirs to their maximum capacity by mid-August, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2011.