Water availability takes a nosedive ahead of Kharif season


The water shortage in the reservoirs forced the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) on Monday to work out an irrigation plan for the early Kharif season from April 1 to June 10 with an estimated 21 percent instead of the whole season that lasts till September 30.
An official source said that the meeting of the technical committee presided over by Chief Engineer IRSA, Yasmeen Ihsan, attended by the representatives of provincial governments, Pakistan Metrological Department and Water and Power Development Authority(WAPDA) decided to hold another meeting in early June to decide water releases for the remaining period of Kharif.
The source said the decision was unprecedented, as the technical committee makes complete assessment and then decides the provinces share. The meeting estimated the total water availability at 15.2 million acre feet (MAF) for the early Kharif period. He said the recommendations of the committee will be considered by the IRSA Advisory Committee on March 30.
Since the committee estimated 21 percent water shortage for early Kharif season, it was decided that top priority of the available water will be given for irrigation purposes to timely sow the important cash crops, like cotton, sugarcane and maize. It was decided that complete share of provinces will be released from reservoirs with no consideration for keep enough storage for hydel power generation. The government wanted to raise the water level in the reservoirs to generate more energy as it was facing financial problems in timely payment of furnace oil supplies to oil companies.
The representative of PMD informed the meeting that the temperature was likely to increase in the Northern Areas after April 15 and overall water inflows will start increasing from May end. The committee decided to supply 9 MAF water to Punjab, 5.6 MAF to Sindh, 0.4 MAF to Balochistan and 0.2 MAF to Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) respectively till June 10, 2012. The water shortage will be shared by Punjab and Sindh as Balochistan and KP are exempted.
It is important to mention that the experts have been stressing upon the government to increase the water storage by rapidly developing new reservoirs and modernizing the 165 years old canal irrigation system that wastes about 50 MAF of water, which is incompatible with crop water requirements and is obsolete.
Former Chairman IRSA Engineer Fateh Ullah Khan has asked IRSA to take up developing of new reservoirs with the government as Pakistan needs to new water storage for irrigation and hydropower as well as to control floods and silting of reservoirs. He proposes building of unique 35 MAF multipurpose Katzarah Dam in Skardu to store 6 times the storage of Bhasha Dam. It will help generate 10,000 MW hydropower, control super floods in the Indus River, and work as watershed management dam to prevent silt in the Indus water. He also proposes building of 8.5 MAF multipurpose Guroh Dop Dam on Punjkora River to store 3 MAF of its runoff. It will help divert 4 MAF of floodwater in Guroh Dop Reservoir from Chitral River, through 22 km tunnel by building Mikhani Dam and power generation of 1400 MW. This will control floods in Kabul River.