ISLAMABAD: There will be no water shortage during Kharif starting April 1, raising hopes of a bumper agriculture output, according to official estimates.
An official of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) told Dawn on Monday that its technical committee had estimated “zero shortage” of water against provincial shares in the upcoming season.
He said a meeting of the advisory committee of the authority had been convened on March 31 to approve these estimates with the consent of the representatives of the provincial governments and respective institutions.
The meeting to be presided over by Irsa Chairman Rao Irshad Ali Khan would also finalise provincial shares for the season and firm up water distribution plan based on provincial irrigation requirements.
About 67-68 MAF would be available for distribution after allocating reasonable water releases downstream Kotri.
He said that given the fact that all stakeholders seemed unanimous over zero water shortage in Kharif, there was strong likelihood that water distribution among the provinces would be done under Para-2 of the 1991 water apportionment accord and provide water to provinces on the basis of their demand.
Informed sources said the recent timely rains had helped build reasonable carry-over stocks that currently stood at about 3.38 million acre feet (MAF). On Sunday, total storage at Tarbela dam was reported at 1.876 MAF, followed by 1.364 MAF at Mangla dam and 0.149 MAF at Chashma barrage.
Because of repeated water shortages, Irsa had over the years adopted an ad-hoc three-tier distribution plan that worked out provincial shares in three stages — early, middle and late watering — through a formula based on a combination of historic uses and shortage sharing.
It was estimated that about 67-68 MAF would be available for distribution after allocating reasonable water releases downstream Kotri as required under the accord for environmental reasons.
As such, Punjab’s Kharif share was estimated at about 33.5 MAF, followed by Sindh at around 30.4 MAF. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would get a share of 2.56 and 0.82 MAF, respectively.
Kharif cropping season starts from April-June and lasts until October-December in different parts of the country. Rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize and mash are some of the key crops of the season.
Irsa is also expected, said these sources, to request the federal government follow up with a recent demand in the Flood Protection Programme to move quickly towards easier dams on an urgent basis to avoid billions of rupees worth of economic loss every year.
According to Irsa estimates, a loss of one MAF of water was estimated to cause Rs60 billion in economic loss a year.
On average, about 20 MAF water was going down into the sea every year, which meant that Pakistan was losing more than Rs1.2 trillion because of shortage of storage capacity in addition to damage caused by floods. Interestingly, the 20 MAF water is almost equal of the storage capacity of three large dams like Tarbela and Mangla.
Under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan was expected to build a large dam in every decade but the nation could not build one in almost half a century after completion of Mangla and Tarbela dams in the 1960s and 1970s.