PPP calls for action against ‘water injustice’

Agriculture minister says Centre indifferent to growers’ plight


Our Correspondent May 31, 2021
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressing the participants of CEC meeting on April 11, 2021. PHOTO: COURTESY/PPP MEDIA CELL

KARACHI:

Decrying the water shortage in Sindh, Pakistan Peoples Party Sindh president Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has called a meeting of the party’s provincial executive committee to decide on a plan of action against the alleged injustice being meted out to Sindh by the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) and the Centre.

All senior leaders of the party in Sindh are to meet today (Monday) to formulate a strategy over the water dispute.

Earlier, addressing a press conference at the Bilawal House Media Cell, Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahoo accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition government in the Centre of stealing Sindh’s water share.

Dismissing allegations of Sindh encroaching on Balochistan’s water shae, the minister said that Sindh could not give water to Balochistan when it is not receiving its own share. It is Punjab, which is stealing the water of both the provinces, alleged Rahoo.

He claimed that Sindh was supplying water to Balochistan by reducing its own share.

Moreover, said Rahoo, the non-provision of water hindered the cotton yield in Sindh this month and the rice crop is also under threat. The prevalent water shortage is affecting the production of various crops, he reiterated.

The minister slammed the federal government for its mismanagement. There were floods in Sindh, agricultural fields were ravaged by locusts but the federal government did not extend any help, he claimed. The lack of water now will also affect the sugarcane crop, said Rahoo, adding that the costs of pesticides, tractors and fertilisers have also increased.

The province has faced water shortages in the past but this federal government is indifferent to the plight of Sindh’s farmers, he said.

The agriculture minister maintained that Sindh is the second largest agricultural province, which contributes to the country’s rice, cotton and sugarcane production. But, he said, this time not even two per cent of the usual rice production could be achieved in the province.

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The federal government had vowed to export rice crop worth $2.5 billion but managed to export only $1.5b of rice crop in the past nine months, said the minister.

The Sukkur and Kotri barrages can only store water for upto six months, said Rahoo, asking what will farmers do when that runs out.

He lamented that the sugarcane and cotton crops’ targets could not be met this year due to the water shortage. Now, the season is ending, he added. Continuing on the plight of growers, the minister said that the Sindh government had requested the federal government for relief in calamity-hit areas and had asked that loans payable by farmers be waived. But the federal government did not pay heed.

While the Sindh government has blamed IRSA and the federal government for violating the Water Apportionment Accord 1991, IRSA has maintained that the water shortage was due to a lack of water in the rivers. IRSA has claimed that Sindh had to face only a four per cent water shortage while Punjab faced a 16 per cent water shortage. Accusing the Sindh government of manipulating data and sharing incorrect figures, IRSA has claimed that more water was provided to Sindh than to Punjab during cotton cultivation.

 

 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2021.

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