Ruckus in Sindh Assembly over water scarcity

House, barring PTI members, passes resolution condemning Centre, IRSA


Hafeez Tunio May 25, 2021
A file photo of Sindh Assembly. PHOTO: PPI

KARACHI:

There was a ruckus in Sindh Assembly on Monday as the house took up water shortage in Sindh. Lawmakers discarded the agenda after Sindh Irrigation Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal moved a resolution condemning the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government and the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) for violating the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991 and cutting down Sindh’s share. The resolution demanded Sindh’s due water share.

The accusation prompted an uproar by the PTI lawmakers but the resolution found support from other opposition members, including those of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and the Grand Democratic Alliance, and was passed. A former PTI lawmaker also spoke in favour of the resolution much to the other party lawmakers’ chagrin.

During the session, lawmakers of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which leads the provincial government, cried foul over the severe water crisis in Sindh that has devastated farmers.

“Thousands of acres of fertile land is on the verge of devastation as growers can’t sow seasonal crops due to lack of water,” read the resolution. It stated that the 1991 Accord is how the provinces have agreed to share water between them. IRSA’s decision, as a regulatory body, to cut Sindh’s share is not only in violation of the agreement but it also violates the sanctity of the Constitution of Pakistan, stated the resolution. The relevant authorities must be held accountable for denying Sindh’s share, it added.

Moving the resolution, the irrigation minister criticised IRSA for playing in the hands of the federal government since 2003. “Currently, the reason they state is that of an overall shortage of water in the system. But I want to know why injustice is being meted out to Sindh by diverting more water to Punjab and opening flood canals all year.”

Referring to a study conducted during the tenure of former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Siyal said, “the findings revealed 5000 cusecs of water [should] be released downstream Kotri for survival of the ecosystem and for agriculture purposes.” Thousands of acres of land is inundated by the sea due to the lack of river water in the tail end, he added.

Seconding him, PPP lawmaker Heer Sohu, who hails from Thatta, urged for fair water distribution in Sindh.

One disgruntled PTI lawmaker, Shaharyar Shar, who had announced his support for the PPP candidate in the March 2021 Senate election, supported the resolution as well.

Other PTI lawmakers shouted slogans against him as he began his speech. “I have left the PTI because of its wrong and anti-people policies,” he said, suggesting that the PPP members stage a sit-in at the Sindh and Punjab border to protest the “injustice being meted out by the Centre”.

The sloganeering by PTI lawmakers continued till Shar winded up his speech. When it was his turn to speak, PTI’s Muhammad Ali, rejected the resolution and claimed there was no water crisis. Instead, he alleged, influential members of the PPP have caused the shortage by diverting water to their lands.

This led to further emotional and charged remarks from the treasury aisle.

After a noisy debate, the resolution was passed with a majority of the lawmakers voting in favour of it.

Earlier as the session began, PTI’s Khurram Sher Zaman condemned the attack on police, in which three policemen were killed and four others injured, in Shikarpur district. He demanded police and Sindh Rangers action against the dacoits in the area.

Zaman was informed by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani that the government has formed a committee and an operation will be launched soon.

The house also briefly discussed dog-bite and kidnapping for ransom incidents in the province before the session was adjourned till today (Tuesday).

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2021.

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