Water shortfall, anti-dams lobby
Pakistan is the most vulnerable country to climate change impact as it is ranked 7th in Global Risk Index of Climate Change. The changed weather patterns have created water shortfall almost a regular feature every year. But the ant-dams lobby is out to oppose the construction of big dams on the River Indus downstream Tarbella tooth and nail merely as political ploy to hoodwink the public opinion in small provinces. As far Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is concerned, the people have recognized their true face and have rejected them in July, 2018 polls.
Indus Water System Authority (IRSA) has anticipated 35-40 percent shortfall of irrigation water in Rabbi beginning October 1. Water shortages for Kharif season have already affected the production of cotton and rice crops in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Since the climate change is a global issue, therefore, IRSA has advised the construction of two more dams in addition to the under process Diamer Basha dam. The Save Our Soul (SOS) call has emanated from the IRSA meeting of technical committee which was presided over by Direction Operation Idrees Rana and attended by the representatives of WAPDA and other concerned departments.
Mr. Rana said that the climate change conditions are getting serious each year, making difficult for the authorities to firm up the water availability anticipation correctly. He said the continuous water shortfall has a long term negative impact in terms of increasing stress on underground water table because of greater reliance on ground water extraction.
The farmers are now relying more on ground water extraction through tube wells to meet their crops requirements when canal water availability is below normal. Reliance on tube wells is then necessary to increase crops production per acre. IRSA has suggested that at least two mega dams in addition to the under process Diamer Basha Dam should be built, otherwise the water woes would keep increasing each year. The predicted shortfall of water in Rabbi Season will affect the sowing and production of wheat crop, mustard and a variety of vegetables.
The water availability situation for Kharif season was also not satisfactory. The estimated water shortage was 36 percent, however the rainfall in September brought down the shortfall to 19 percent. As of September 20 Sindh faced the lowest water shortage of 16 percent though its parliamentarians have been raising hue and cry over the excessive shortages and losses to crops. Punjab faced 20 percent shortage, KP 21 percent. Baluchistan on the other hand suffered the highest shortage of water of 44 percent because Sind used a reasonable amount of its share of water about a complaint was made in the CCI meeting. The water accord of 1991 requires no cut in water share to Baluchistan and KP because of their infrastructure constraints.
Pakistan has been complaining against the persistent violation of Indus Basin Treaty by India as it has completed Kishan Ganga dam on the river Neelum and has launched two dams Pakal Dual and Lower Kalnai on River Chenab. After many years of talks between India and Pakistan, the former agreed in the meeting of Water Commissioner held in Lahore last month to allow Pakistani experts to inspect the sites of these two dams. The Pakal Dual Dam has a big reservoir for generating 1000 megawatt electricity and lower Kalnai is smaller with power generation potential of 48 megawatt. But both of them involve the diversion of water from tributaries that feed Chenab, much like their cousin Kishan Ganga, which is built on River Meelum. The previous government did not build up a strong case against the construction of Kishan Ganga dam and eventually International Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of India. India has now reneged on the decision made in Lahore meeting to allow Pakistani experts to inspect the hydropower projects of Pakal Dual and Kalnai. A team of Pakistani was expected to inspect these projects next month.
The warning of IRSA about the water shortages every year must be taken seriously. A mass awareness campaign should be launched to sensitize people about the looming threat of water shortage and create mass awareness about the smear political campaign of PPP and ANP leaders against Kalabagh dam, the construction of which is inevitable for ensuring sufficient irrigation water to KP, Punjab and Sindh. Interest the country and its people should get preference over the vested interest of a few politicians of myopic vision who have few stakes in Pakistan.