ISLAMABAD - The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) Sunday said that Balochistan had been enduring a shortage of water since early 70s as all its canals originated in Sindh and were controlled by Sindh Irrigation Department. “Even today, the province is facing 61 per cent water shortage.”

Rejecting the Sindh province’s claim of low water supply during the ongoing Kharif season, the IRSA spokesman said that the water supply was rather increased to the province, but 39 per cent losses downstream Taunsa to Kotri during the first 10 days of May had caused water shortage in the province.

“The fluctuations could not be absorbed and regulated properly due to excessive variability and historical dips in river flows during April 2021, as a result of regional climate change, and almost exhausted storages in Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs,” said the IRSA spokesman.

“Indus River inflows at Tarbela touched historically the lowest level of 15,000 cfs and 13,100 cfs on 26th-27th of April 2021, respectively. IRSA tried to cope with the dip by utilising available storage in Tarbela and Chashma reservoirs, but because of limited storage at that time, Tarbela Reservoir touched dead level on April 27, 2021 and Chashma Reservoir on April 30, 2021,” said IRSA spokesman Khalid Rana.

Spokesman rejects Bilawal’s claim of low water supply to Sindh; says supply to Sindh was rather increased by reducing Punjab’s

After observing significant improvement in Indus and Kabul River flows in early May 2021, IRSA decided to implement water sharing afresh by increasing Sindh’s share at Chashma Barrage downstream. This was managed by reducing Punjab canal withdrawals at Taunsa and Panjnad Barrages to facilitate Sindh as much as possible. The withdrawals at these barrages were reduced from 19,161 cfs on May 04, 2021 to 13,876 cfs on May 06, 2021. Downstream Taunsa flows gradually increased from 33,666 cfs on May 04, 2021 to 63,129 cfs on May 11, 2021, but losses between Taunsa-Panjnad-Guddu Reach sprang up simultaneously from 300 cfs to 16,700 cfs in a matter of days, causing less supply at Guddu upstream.

“It may also be noted that Sindh’s losses downstream Taunsa to Kotri from May 01 to 10, 2021 were -39 per cent (against allowance of -30 per cent) while Punjab’s losses were 8 per cent (against allowance of 10 per cent) in Jhelum-Chenab Zone and +2 per cent (against allowance of -30 per cent) in Indus Zone during the same period,” said Khalid Rana.

“Looking to the above losses pattern which was disturbing, it seemed an almost impossible task for IRSA to make judicious distribution unless Sindh reported correct flow data and stopped downstream Kotri escapages amid excessive system shortages,” the spokesman maintained.

Many Joint Discharge Measurements (JDMs) conducted by IRSA in the past with representation from all authorities concerned have confirmed misreporting of water flow data, but no corrective measure has been initiated by the Provincial Irrigation Department (PID). Another wastage aspect which merits mentioning is that during Rabi 2020-21 downstream Kotri releases were recorded at 0.556 Million Acre Feet (MAF) and from April 01, 2021 to-date, escapages below Kotri were 0.046 MAF. Releases downstream Kotri have been made despite shortages in the system in violation of IRSA’s instructions.

Regarding Sindh’s objection on reduction of Mangla Reservoir outflows by IRSA, it was apprised that the outflows had been cut immediately to 50,000 cfs on May 03, 2021 to prevent reservoir’s drop below the spillway’s crest level. Had the outflows not been reduced from 55,000 cfs to 50,000 cfs, the reservoir would have gone below the spillway crest level, resulting in constraining and passing of outflows only through the power house of around 38,000 cfs. An important point worth mentioning is that about 0.710MAF water was released from Mangla Reservoir exclusively during April 06, 2021 to May 02, 2021 to meet with the requirements of Sindh.

Referring to the allegations of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the spokesman clarified that IRSA had not cut the water share of Sindh. “It has rather increased downstream Taunsa supplies by reducing Punjab withdrawals as stated above.” The present dip in river flows was unavoidably passed downstream as no regulating storage was available at Tarbela and Chashma Reservoirs.