Water sharing among provinces has historically remained a sensitive issue, with federating units sparring over the perceived cut in their portions. Allegations of water theft have also flown thick and fast among the provinces, especially Punjab and Sindh, over the years. It was in 1991 that a seminal water sharing accord was reached among the provinces, which brought the longstanding conflict to an end. Each federating unit was allotted a share in the precious resource under a consensus-based agreement.
To a large degree, the accord holds to this day. But we still get to hear complaints about one province or the other getting less than its allotted share. One such instance came to the fore on July 20 when a team of consultants constituted by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) found that Balochistan is currently receiving water below its entitlement. The team is tasked to measure water discharge at designated points to determine the distribution of water between Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. When the consultants visited the Garang regulator, it was discovered that Balochistan received less than the amount it is entitled to.
By all means, the deficit does not appear all that great, but it’s a matter of right which must be upheld. If a consensual document apportions a water share to a province, to which all other units are signatories, that share must be given. It’s the responsibility of Irsa to ensure that the designated share of provinces is supplied to them and no cut, however small, is made. This is imperative to stave off any conflict that may rear its head in the future. The 1991 Water Accord has, barring minor hiccups, served to sustain cohesion among provinces over water sharing. The breakthrough it represented must be carried forward, and no deviation from it should be allowed, lest a province, feeling deprived of its share, threatens to unravel it.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2014.
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