ISLAMABAD-The Indus River System Authority (IRSA)’s advisory committee has approved an anticipated water shortage of 18 percent for the provinces during the upcoming Rabi season (2022-23).

IRSA Advisory Committee (IAC), which met here to approve the Rabi 2022-23 anticipated water availability criteria from October 1st, 2022 to March 31st, 2023, has anticipated availability of 30.199 MAF water at canal heads during the season.

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Zahid Hussain Junejo, Chairman IRSA/Member IRSA Sindh and was attended by all IRSA members, chairman WAPDA, Chief Engineering Advisor, Member (Power) WAPDA, JS (Water) MoWR, secretaries Provincial Irrigation Departments (PIDs) of Punjab and Sindh, representatives of PIDs of KP and Balochistan, DG Met Department, Director (Opr) / Secretary IRSA and other concerned officials.

The advisory committee discussed the recommendations of IRSA Technical Committee (ITC) meeting held on September 26, 2022 and approved the likely anticipated water availability at the four rim-stations of 21.67 MAF for Rabi 2022-23 which was about 3pc more than previous year and about 4pc less than 10-year average. 

IAC was informed that the forecast and anticipated system operation was conducted by utilizing the Water Apportionment Accord (WAA)-Tool, developed jointly by MoWR, IRSA, PIDs, WAPDA under technical and financial assistance from the Australian Government through CSIRO and ACIAR. 

As per the anticipation total availability at canal heads will be 30.199 MAF which includes rim stations inflow (Including ERs Component) will be 22.674 MAF, storage 9.9519MAF, Kotri Below (Involuntary - during Canal Closures) 0.059MAF and system losses will be 1.936 MAF. 

The likely share of Punjab will be 16.233 MAF, Sindh 12.243MAF, KP(CRBC) 0.701MAF and Balochistan 1.022 MAF. The basin-wise shortage for Rabi 2022-23 was approved as 18pc which will be divided between Sindh and Punjab. Balochistan and KP are exempted from the losses.

The likely availability at the canal heads of 30.19mMAF was about 10pc higher than last year’s availability of 27.43 MAF and 2pc higher than 10-year average of 29.68 MAF. 

The advisory committee reviewed the Kharif 2022 system operation and observed that the actual rim-station inflows of 91.47 MAF till 29th September remained 14pc less than forecasted volume of 106.51 MAF and 9pc less with respect to 10-year average of 100.42 MAF. The early Kharif months of April, May and June were recorded as the driest, while the late Kharif months of July, August September were the wettest on record. The provincial canal withdrawals were 41pc short with respect to shares. 

The committee was apprised that the imbalance between provincial withdrawals was due to less utilization/closing of respective canals as the rivers were flooded. The actual system losses were 3.58 MAF as compared to anticipation of 14.43 MAF. Downstream Kotri releases remained 38.09 MAF due to catastrophic rains in the Indus Basin, especially the lower catchments.  It was informed that as a result of flooding of the Indus Main Stem, 19.93 MAF of gains occurred. 

The committee also approved the WAA-Tool anticipated Indus and JC Zones losses at 8.6pc and 0pc, respectively, subject to the condition that they will be monitored till 31st October 2022 and subsequently updated accordingly. 

Irrigation Punjab however, showed reservations on the adopted percentages for the losses in Indus Zone and advocated 0% losses based on matching year statistics.

DG Metrological Department said that as per their analysis, below normal rains were expected across the basin for the next three months. However, moderately above normal rains were expected over South East Sindh in areas adjoining Indian Rajasthan.

The IAC also approved Balochistan’s request of additional 0.149 MAF for Kachhi Canal, as on time arrangement due to dilapidated condition of the agriculture in Balochistan after the catastrophic rains in Late Kharif 2022.  Additionally, IAC approved Chashma Barrage Closure as requested by WAPDA for a period of 15 days between the possible dates from Jan 01 to 15 2023, which would be synchronized with closure schedule of Guddu and Sukkur Barrages. During the closure, Chashma Reservoir would be constrained between levels 638.15 ft to 640.00 ft with outflow restrictions between 15,000 cfs to 30,000 cfs. 

Chairman WAPDA and Tarbela authorities also imparted detailed briefings to the august forum regarding Tunnel 5 closure and said that the T5 HPP was a project of national importance. After thorough deliberations, IAC unanimously approved the Tarbela Tunnel 5 closure for a period of 33 months from September 2022 to May 2025.