Sindh skeptical about expected rise in Indus flows next week

HYDERABAD   -   Water flows in Sindh’s irrigation channels are likely to improve within a week or so but the officials who monitor inter-provincial water distribution believe these better flows may not be dependable.

The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) on Monday (May 13) announced that water distribution will be done under para-2 of the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991, instead of three-tier formula. Sindh rejects this formula as the basis for inter-provincial water distribution and the matter is pending adjudication by the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

On April 20, Irsa had foreseen a 30pc shortage in the early Kharif period but about a week back, it revised it downward to 21pc.

Irsa announced on May 13 that since ‘abundant’ water was available in the system, the distribution would be done under para-2 of the 1991 accord which had been a permanent demand of the lower riparian, Sindh.

Kabul River has reported 80,000 cusecs-plus flows over the last few days and even Mangla Dam, according to Sindh Irrigation Secretary Zarif Iqbal Khero, has a storage level of around 2.75MAF which is a rare phenomenon.

May 16 discharge of Kabul river, however, was 64,400 cusecs. “Irsa has made a new statement of sufficient flows availability in the system in view of rainy spell in upper catchment and storage constraints of Tarbela Dam which can’t be filled beyond 1,470ft due to ongoing T-5 [Tunnel-5] works,” said an official.

“Will this rainy spell be sustainable is the actual question; and since Tarbela can’t be filled beyond 1,470ft limit, Irsa has to release water Tarbela downstream to provide run of the river flows in Indus. So, this is not out of favour, but apparently under certain compulsions,” commented the official. Flows of around 80,000 cusescs, he says, are to add to the Indus River as well. If water distribution is indeed to be done under the para-2, will such flows be released from Tarbela as well? he argues.

Another Sindh official points out that if Tarbela is filled beyond 1,470ft storage level, the ongoing work will have to be stopped and that’s why Wapda has fixed a timeline of July 20 for filling the dam. The date has now been revised to June 30.

The ongoing work at T-5 was to be completed in a 33-month period, according to one report. The official says he hopes to see a flow of 80,000 cusecs at Guddu upstream by next week. Guddu was having a discharge of 47,242 cusecs till Tuesday (May 14).

While Kharif has already started and these days are the peak of the season, shortages have been there. Guddu reported 45pc and 14pc shortages in Desert Pat Feeder and Ghotki Pat Feeder, respectively, till May 14 and an overall 36pc shortage was reported at Sukkur Barrage followed by 49pc reported at Kotri Barrage.

Begari Sindh Feeder is still lying closed and likewise Rice Canal of Sukkur Barrage is also closed. Rohri Canal and Nara Canal reported 24pc and 20pc shortages, respectively, till May 14 at Sukkur Barrage.

Kotri Barrage Chief Engineer Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur believes that since water flows are going to improve, this shortage would be overcome.

“Wewere having 8,035 cusecs of flows until a couple of days back against current need of around 15,700 cusecs,” he points out, and says that in view of Irsa’s announcement, the flows will be made available in canals within the next one week to 10 days.

Rotation programme

Due to the estimated 21pc shortage, says an official, the barrage authorities in Sindh have already been told to ensure rotation programme in canals and now the latest announcement has come from Irsa about availability of required flows in the system.

The rotation programme affects summer crops sowing, especially rice, which displeases growers’ leaders like Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) President Mahmood Nawaz Shah and Sindh Abadgar Ittehad President Nawab Zubair Talpur.

“Kotri Barrage authorities should at least clarify that farmers in the barrage’s command areas can cultivate seed of rice crop and then transplant it elsewhere after required time,” said Shah.

He said that such an announcement had not been seen yet, although flows were said to have improved. If growers were given assurance that they could sow seeds of rice crop, they would be ready to work on their land.

Zubair Talpur was of the view that tail-end areas of Rohri and Nara canals were affected by shortages. Both these main canals were having 13,000 cusecs-plus flows which dropped to 10,200 cusecs lately, he argued while attributing it to inefficiency of the irrigation

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