Sindh and Punjab may yet again be at loggerheads over the supply of water after the Sindh government sent a letter to the Indus River System Authority – the governing body on the country’s river water resources – asking for Punjab to be supplied water from the Mangla Dam rather than the Tarbela Dam.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the Sindh government fears that supplying water for Punjab from Tarbela Dam will drastically reduce the water levels at the reservoir and may cause a water shortage of up to 40% for the rabi (winter) growing season.
“Irsa should stop water releases to Punjab from Tarbela dam through the Chashma Jhelum canal and the Taunsa-Panjnad Canal in a bid to fill the dam to meet requirements of Rabi Season,” said the Sindh government in its letter.
Punjab normally uses water stored in Mangla Dam and other three provinces – Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan – use water from Tarbela dam. The reasons for this are technical: Sindh cannot be supplied from Mangla dam owing to the fact that the water losses along the way would amount to between 70% and 80%, making the option unviable in a country that has scarce water resources.
Irsa is currently releasing about 13,000 cubic feet per second (cusec) of water to Punjab from the Tarbela dam and allowing water to fill the Mangla dam.
Both Tarbela and Mangla – the largest dams in the country – are below the levels they were at during the same period last year, despite the recent rainfall.
The water level at Tarbela was at 1,492 feet on Thursday, compared to 1,528 feet last during the same time year. The average water level at Tarbela over the last decade has been 1,515 feet. Mangla is at similarly depleted levels, at 1,197 feet compared to 1,206 feet last year.
“Irsa should stop filling Mangla Dam and release water from it to meet the requirements of Punjab province,” said the Sindh government in its letter.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.