28 years on, Balochistan remains deprived of its water share


–IRSA blames Sindh for not passing over water share to Balochistan

–Sindh says not getting enough water as per 1991 distribution accord 


ISLAMABAD: Water distribution between federating units of Pakistan remains unresolved even after the passage of 28 years since the Water Apportionment Accord (WAA) 1991 as Balochistan is being deprived of almost 33 per cent of its share at the hands of Sindh.

In a bid to resolve water disputes, all four provinces had signed the WAA on the sharing of waters of the Indus basin. It is based largely upon the historical use of water by the provinces: Punjab 47%, Sindh 42% Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) 8% and Balochistan 3%.

However, even 28 years later, Balochistan suffers as on average it faced a shortage of around 33 per cent against its authorised share.

As per the details, the annual share of Balochistan under WAA is 3.87 Million Acre Feet (MAF). Out of the total allocated share of 3.87 MAF, 2.85 MAF is to be released to Balochistan in Kharif season while 1.02 MAF in Rabi.

According to official documents of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), Balochistan faced the worst shortage in 1994-95 when it was recorded at 61 per cent. The shortage in the following year i.e. 1995-96 was recorded at 53 per cent.

The water share in 1996-97 was at 49 per cent when Mir Zafarullah Jamali was the chief minister and the following year when BNP-M chief Akhtar Mengal took reins of the province, the shortage was recorded at 45 per cent.

The situation improved later on but the year 2010-11 saw another surge under then CM Aslam Raisani as the shortage touched 46 per cent while in the year 2012-13 it was recorded at 42 per cent.

According to IRSA officials, Balochistan has not faced shortage since 2000 and the authority always releases full indented water supply to Balochistan but the Sindh Irrigation Department does not pass on the supply to Balochistan as per IRSA authorisation.

“Balochistan has taken up the issue of water shortage at the Council of Common Interests (CCI). The CCI in its meeting held in September 2018 decided that the chief ministers of both Sindh and Balochistan should resolve the issue amicably through mutual consultation. The issue has to be resolved in the context of ensuring implementation on the grounds of the IRSA accord to address mistrust between the provinces,” an IRSA official said while speaking to Pakistan Today.

They added that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources had approached secretaries of both the chief ministers and requested to have the requisite meeting arranged under intimation to the IPC Division. However, the ministry was yet to receive any response from both the provinces.

To complicate the matter further, the Sindh government has also claimed that its water share under IRSA accord is not being supplied. However, according to IRSA, irrigation water is being authorised not only to Sindh but also Punjab as per the spirit of WAA 1991.

“The Sindh government, being aggrieved by this decision of IRSA, has approached the CCI to address its concerns over the distribution of water with respect to WAA 1991. After detailed deliberations, the CCI in its meeting held in May last year constituted a committee headed by the attorney general of Pakistan and comprising one representative of each province to look into the issue,” the official said.

The committee, they added, has held two of its meetings and deliberated upon the issue. “First meeting was held on November 15, 2018, while the follow-up meeting was held on December 4, 2018. The report of the committee is awaited,” the IRSA official said.

Experts say that WAA 1991 failed to end the long-simmering tensions between provinces over water sharing. Of all the provinces of Pakistan, Sindh probably feels the most aggrieved because the accord does not guarantee a minimum “environmental flow” of river water through the province and into the Arabian Sea.

With the inter-provincial water accord, if a dispute cannot be resolved by the IRSA, the only other resort is the CCI that resolves power-sharing disputes between the federation and provinces.

There is only one tier to resolve disputes and in many cases, a province may not wish to escalate a concern to that level – in which case there is no midway. Furthermore, the CCI like any court of law will evaluate a dispute against the existing accord, not debate the accord itself.