ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will be facing 10 per cent shortage of water in upcoming Rabi crop sowing season because of scarcity of dams, despite massive floods caused by torrential rains for the last two years.
Punjab and Sindh, the major crop producing provinces and the main consumers of water, will share the water shortage while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which are not so heavily depended on agriculture and owing to infrastructure constraints, are exempted in the upcoming Rabi season, which will start next month, officials say.
At present, authorities dealing with water issues are compelled to release 175,000 cusecs per day from downstream Kotri into sea due to lack of storages instead of 5,000 cusecs as per environmental standards.
“The country has lost nine million acre feet (MAF) of water over the last three months and the figure is expected to reach 12 MAF in the current Kharif season,” a source said. In last year’s floods, 55 MAF of water was wasted which went into sea due to lack of reservoirs.
Indus River System Authority (Irsa) spokesman Khalid Idrees Rana, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the country was losing storage capacity as now it could store 12 MAF compared to 15 MAF earlier.
“Despite rains, we cannot store more water than our capacity and therefore 10 per cent water shortage has been projected for the Rabi season,” he said, adding the Irsa advisory committee would finalise the water distribution plan in a meeting to be held on September 30.
In a meeting of Irsa’s technical advisory committee, held on Friday, provincial representatives failed to develop consensus on water losses caused by the floods. Representatives of provincial irrigation departments, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), Irsa and Pakistan Meteorological Department attended the meeting.
Officials said Irsa representatives expected no water losses because of the impact of recent floods which had recharged canals and raised overall water table. However, provinces rejected the claim, saying at present it was not possible to project water losses.
According to the officials, the committee projected inflow of 21.7 MAF in rivers by the end of Rabi season in March 2012 while 11.9 MAF already stored would be available in major reservoirs including Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma by the end of September. For Rabi crops including wheat, gram, lentil, potato, onion, mustard, oilseeds, minor crops, fruits, fodder and medicinal herbs, more than 34.5 MAF will be available.
Under the 1991 water accord, provincial shares are based on total water availability of 38.21 MAF, including already sanctioned quantity for urban and industrial uses in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2011.
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