Politicians, Sindhi nationalist leaders, irrigation experts and growers have termed the continuous reduction in release of water from Indus River for Sindh despite many agreements “an act of water-terrorism.”
Action should be taken against those who have compromised the country’s rights on rivers through dubious agreements, speakers said at a conference on how to save Sindh from water shortage and floods organised by the Sindhi-language daily Sindh Express.
They were equally critical of the upper riparian province and the neighbouring country for creating droughts and floods at the tail end of the Indus River.
The speakers said that instead of presenting demands to agricultural authorities, the growers should move courts to secure their water rights.
Some of the speakers rose above political statements and suggested using technology to improve water management. Growers can get more produce by using laser technology to provide ideal elevation to watercourses and fields and drip and sprinkle irrigation, they said.
PPP Sindh General Secretary Taj Haider in his presentation explained various steps the Sindh government has taken to improve the water situation in the province.
He presented the results of a survey conducted by an international firm and said that the government has been working on restoring 18 natural watercourses from Khairpur to Badin by removing encroachments.
He said that the survey company has proposed that water bypasses be constructed where these channels pass through cities, but implementation of this recommendation is too expensive. Therefore, the government opted for clearing the encroachments.
The chief of the Awami Tehreek Rasul Bakhsh Palejo said that a petition has been filed with reference to Kalabagh Dam (KBD) in Punjab but Sindh’s stance on this petition is not known till date.
He criticised the provincial authorities for taking the (KBD) issue lightly. If Sindh has taken a stance on this petition, it should be made public.
He said that the chain of damage to Sindh started in Liaquat Ali Khan’s era. He said that Ayub Khan might have signed the Indus Basin Treaty with India, but Z A Bhutto, who represented Sindh in that committee, did not utter a single word and thus three rivers and their water were given to India. He said that it is the feudal lords of the province who have compromised the rights of Sindh.
Qadir Magsi, chief of Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party, criticising the provincial authorities, said that the government is meant only to eat funds. “The irrigation officers don’t even sit in their offices, how can we expect them to represent the province at forums where distribution of Indus water is decided?”
Magsi said the province needs a competent government to save the people from droughts and floods.
He also pointed towards the land erosion of riverbanks due to illegal timbering. “The government must be blind that it cannot see swathes of forests cut down.” Trees are considered vital in flood control.
Mehmood Nawaz Shah, General Secretary of Sindh Abadgar Board, a representative body of growers, said the irrigation system has become dilapidated. A substantial quantity of water is wasted due to damaged canals, he said urging people to make the best use of the available water.
Agriculture expert Akhund Ghulam Muhammad Siddiqui said that the former Sindh Chief Minister Jam Sadiq signed the 1992 water agreement without consulting the growers.
Chairman Fisher Folk Forum Muhammad Ali Shah said water theft is terrorism. He condemned the authorities for drastic cuts in release of water downstream Kotri Barrage.
Reducing river flow in delta has led to sea incursion, he said. When the river stops flowing, there is no silt in the delta and seawater flows into empty channels. The sea incursion has devastated farming and freshwater fishing in the tail end areas of Thatta and Badin, he said.
Chief of the Awami Jamhoori Party Abrar Qazi warned that water shortage could lead to a standoff between India and Pakistan. “We should on one hand prepare ourselves for a big war and on the other hand improve water management by adopting modern conservation techniques.”
Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz leader Sagar Hanif was quite vocal in blaming the upper riparian province for water woes. “Punjab is responsible for the shortage of water in Sindh,” the Sindhi nationalist leader said.
Former secretary irrigation Hashim Leghari, growers’ leaders Major ( r) Omar Farooq, Ghulam Mustafa Leghari and Tariq Arain also addressed the seminar.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2013.