LAHORE: Sindh and Punjab have long been at odds over water from the Indus River, with the former regularly accusing the latter of not releasing its due share. But high-level investigations by the country’s top irrigation authority point to an attempt at a cover-up by the Sindh government to strengthen its position on the dispute.
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), which have been jointly probing the matter, have finalised their findings and sent them to the Ministry of Water and Power. The final investigation report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, revealed that the Sindh Irrigation Department deliberately manipulated figures to support its stance that the province was getting less than its due share of water. It also pointed out that Sindh irrigation officials did not cooperate with Irsa and Wapda investigators.
The report alleges that Sindh irrigation authorities pursued a deliberate policy of misreporting water volume figures recorded between the Taunsa and Guddu barrages. It confirmed that the both in 2016 and 2018, the Sindh government provided incorrect water flow data. The document revealed that the water figures Sindh officials recorded at Guddu Barrage were 14.25 per cent less than the actual volume and the number they jotted down for water volume at the Nara Canal of Sukkur Barrage were 29.7 per cent less than what it should have been.
Sindh lawmakers accuse Centre of unequal water distribution
The report added that Sindh officials also habitually neglected the rules and regulations for water measurement set by Irsa and Wapda. It also noted that teams sent to rectify water discharge issues at certain points were denied access.
Regarding hurdles Sindh officials created during the course of the probe, the report noted that investigators were asked to give advance notice for visits in a bid to prevent snap checking. The Sindh officials also opposed a plan to check water volume at Sukkur Barrage using GPS satellites. After investigators spent 36 hours attempting to measure the volume using traditional methods, the provincial officials suddenly consented to using satellites for measurement. The report asserts that the delay was ‘intentional’ to allow Sindh officials to ‘manage’ other sites before they could be investigated.
Sindh’s member in Irsa also created hindrances for the investigation team, the report revealed. The senior official’s insistence that investigators provide a schedule beforehand forced investigators to call off a visit to the Kotri Barrage, it noted.
The final report also called on Sindh irrigation authorities to take measures to prevent extensive water theft in different parts of the province.
The investigation team was formed after the Punjab Irrigation Department sent a letter to water and power ministry accusing Sindh authorities of misreporting water data. With the team’s report now finalised, the Punjab government have sent another letter to ministry demanding action against Sindh officials involved the attempted cover-up.
Sindh’s legal fraternity opposes dams on Indus river
The fresh letter also rejects the Sindh Irsa member’s suggestion of hiring a private company for a water audit by pointing out that such a move is not allowed under the Irsa Act. It also urges Sindh authorities to provide true and accurate water data.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Irrigation Minister Mohsin Leghari said the Irsa Act was formed with the consensus of all provinces, making it binding on all of them to work with complete integrity. “We hope the federal government will now take measures dictated by law against the officials involved in misreporting of data,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2019.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ