Alarmingly low water flows may impact Rabi crops

Officials forced to utilise water for Kharif crops instead of conserving it

Our Correspondent June 18, 2019
Punjab agriculture minister worried about availability for upcoming Rabi crops. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: In a bid to meet the irrigation needs of the Kharif season, the lower than normal water flow has forced water manager saway from conserving water for the lean period of upcoming Rabi season, which is a very risky move.

The water availability situation for crops has turned bleak due to faltering inflows in all main rivers as the water level has fallen below the average flows of the past 10 years. During the current Kharif crop season the water demand is on rise as temperatures continue to soar.

If irrigation requirements of the Kharif crops are not met, it will cause damage to the plants and output. Below average flows were seen in all major rivers of Pakistan including Indus, Kabul and Chenab.

In the present scenario, if the government resorts to conserve water in Mangla Dam for the lean period of Rabi season, Pakistan would face huge water crisis in the current season, hence it would not be a wise approach.

Pakistan's Agri-committee to set crop targets in mid-April

“The only option left is to ensure plantation of cotton and rice crops in the current season and allocate second priority to fill Mangla Dam,” said an official of the Water Division. “Ironically, we have pinned our hopes on a flood-like situation for being able to impound water in Mangla Lake with a view of filling it to maximum conservation level of 1,242 feet above mean sea level.”

Water level at Tarbela Dam, which is the second biggest reservoir of the country, hit almost rock bottom on Monday.

Only about two million acre feet (MAF) of water had been stored at the Mangla Dam against its capacity of nearly 7.4 MAF.

As per the data released by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) on Monday, water level at Tarbela Dam stood at 1,393.9 feet against the minimum operating level of 1,392 feet with maximum conservation level of 1,550 feet. Live storage on Monday was recorded at 0.017 million acre feet (MAF).

High floods in the coming days remain the sole hope for filling Mangla Dam up to its water holding capacity.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2019.

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