In another twist to the latest water share controversy on Thursday, Punjab requested the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) to increase its water share from the Chashma-Jhelum (C-J) link canal by another 3,000 cusecs. Amidst the intensifying row over water share between Sindh and Punjab, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, has summoned a meeting of all four provinces this week to settle the sharing equation.
Reports suggest that the prime minister may look to restructure IRSA, which has been unable to settle the water disputes between Sindh and Punjab. The meeting will also be attended by the Ministry of Water and Power.
Regarding its latest demand, Punjab says that it needs the extra water to meet irrigation needs of its southern belt, a move which is set to further enflame sentiments in Sindh.
An official of IRSA told The Express Tribune that the Punjab government has written a letter to the water watchdog and demanded that it provide 13,000 cusecs water from the C-J link canal – an increase of 30 per cent over the existing release.
Punjab has the support of IRSA’s acting chief. “Southern Punjab may be adversely affected if the additional water is not provided”, said acting chairman IRSA, Shafqat Masood. He said that three million acres of land would be affected in these districts.
Shafqat said that he has not seen the letter from Punjab, but when the request is put forward for approval, he will decide on the matter.
Sindh had already strongly protested over opening of the C-J link canal and asked its member, Mohammad Khan Memon, to resign from the regulatory body on Wednesday. Sindh argues that Punjab has already used its water share and the acting chairman Irsa illegally opened the canal on Tuesday. The federal Irsa member, Bashir Dahar, who also hails from Sindh, decided to quit on the same issue on the same day.
Khyber-Pakthunkhwa’s Irsa member and the chairman of the body Aman Gul Khatak had already resigned due to the deadlock between the two provinces.
Now, Punjab’s latest request for additional water from C-J canal is likely to exacerbate the already tense situation. Mohammad Khan Memon said that Punjab was taking undue advantage of temporarily heading the water watchdog. He said that Sindh’s objection was not over the release of water from the C-J canal – but had more to do with the acting chairman’s unilateral decision to open the waterway.
Memon said that the government has not accepted his resignation so far.
According to the Irsa official, none of the provinces are facing a water shortfall due to availability of sufficient water. He said Sindh was receiving 200,000 cusecs water, Punjab 152,000 cusecs, Balochistan 13,000 cusecs and Khyber-Pakthunkhwa was getting 3,000 cusecs.
Meanwhile, Online news agency reports that, on the directives of the prime minister, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has summoned the special meeting of provincial cabinet on July 12 to present Sindh’s case and resolve the issue of the opening of the Chashma-Jhelum link canal.
The special meeting, chaired by the prime minister, will be held at the chief minister’s house. Quoting sources, Online said that the prime minister would assure the provincial cabinet for judicious distribution of water to Sindh and is likely to announce the removal of Irsa chairman, Shafqat Masood from his post.
The meeting will also review the performance of Sindh cabinet and ongoing developmental schemes funded by the federal government.
(With additional input from wires)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2010.
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