The officials of Sindh Irrigation Department and Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA) have raised serious concerns against the construction of Sindh Barrage.
At an online meeting with the officials of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) on Wednesday, the officials wondered how the issues of water shortage in Sindh and adverse effects on thousands of acres of fertile land surrounding the proposed barrage will be addressed.
The irrigation officials gathered at SIDA's secretariat, where some WAPDA officials also joined them. The other officials of the authority joined online from Lahore.
The proposed barrage will be constructed in Thatta district at the cost of Rs125 billion in the downstream of the Kotri barrage in Jamshoro district.
Its feasibility study is scheduled to be completed by September this year. It will be able to store between two to three million acre feet water.
However, the Sindh government, the province's farmers and irrigation experts have opposed the reservoir.
Threats to agricultural land
The Sindh irrigation department's chief engineer Zareef Khero said the survey reports about the area and water availability in Sindh should be studied before planning the project. "The area [proposed for the barrage] is near the coast and it can be affected by the cyclones. What plans have been formed in this regard?" he questioned.
Khero emphasised that reviewing the survey of oceanography was essential before planning the project. He pointed out that salinity and seepage problem will occur once the barrage is filled with water and this will affect thousands of acres of agricultural land.
"We have already experienced the adverse effects of the Chotiari dam in Sanghar [district] over the agricultural land surrounding the site," he observed. He referred to delay in releasing minutes of the last meeting with WAPDA officials.
Similarly, SIDA Managing Director Pretam Das said it should be assessed at the planning stage that what benefits the barrage is likely to provide to the local people. He contended that the barrage's construction will destroy fertile agricultural land near the project site in Thatta and Badin districts.
"If the barrage is being built to stop sea intrusion then the Sindh government is already considering construction of a sea levy for the same purpose," he told the meeting, adding that the Asian Development Bank has been approached to provide loan for that project and that a bank's delegation will visit the province in June.
He asked WAPDA to inform that how much land will be protected from sea intrusion and that how much land will be affected due to the barrage's construction.
Meanwhile, Sindh irrigation department's Chief Engineer Haji Khan Jamali pointed out that the barrages in Sindh are already dealing with the water shortage and asked WAPDA to clarify from where the proposed barrage will be provided water. He recalled that international experts have recommended the release of eight million to 10m cusecs water in the downstream of the Kotri barrage to protect the delta and check the intrusion.
He said the Indus River flowed with high water only for three months of monsoon rains in a year and even that excess water is stored in the dams and for power generation.
Jamali said the WAPDA should provide proper details as to how the required water will be arranged for the new barrage.
WAPDA official Farhat Kamal said the purpose of the meeting is to listen to the apprehensions of Sindh's irrigation officials and to address the same.
Another official of WAPDA A Zahid Khan Durrani said that subsequent meetings should be arranged without long gaps so that the concerns of the Sindh government and irrigation department can be addressed.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2021.