Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal: Punjab accepts Sindh demand, halves its water share
By Munawar Hasan
LAHORE: The Punjab government has conceded to the Sindh demand over the Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal, and voluntarily halved its share of water from the Indus zone through this vital link from Sunday.
The decision to reduce irrigation supplies to the southern part of the province to 3,000 cusecs of water was taken after a meeting between high powered delegations of the two provinces on Saturday in Karachi.
As a follow-up to the meeting, the Sindh government delegation is arriving in the provincial metropolis today (Monday) to further deliberate on the bilateral arrangement for distribution of water between the two federating units.
As per the initial discussion, the Punjab and Sindh will try to reinvent a mutual water sharing plan in Monday’s parleys, with a view to addressing immediate water demand of the respective provinces. This give-and-take formula will subsequently be presented to the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) for approval, bypassing its settled distribution arrangements.
Sources said Sindh’s recent insistence over a cut in supplies to the Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal has enormous consequences for irrigated agriculture of the Punjab province. The water supply from the Indus river to the Jhelum through the Link Canal ultimately irrigates millions of acres of land in the southern Punjab. Not only this, sustained supply of water through this link is indispensable for the under-construction Greater Thal Canal. The first phase of this important canal is about to be completed and it will eventually irrigate the eastern part of the Thal Doab within the boundaries of Bhakkar, Layyah, Khushab and Jhang districts in northwest Punjab. About 1.976 million acres of fertile land will benefit from this project. Sources said Punjab should not concede to the Sindh demand, as it would lead to complete shut down of Greater Thal Canal project, depriving the poor people of the area from this benefit.
According to the sources, Sindh and Punjab were experiencing same level of water shortage. In fact, the Sindh province was getting almost the same quantity of water it has been getting for the past 10 years.
As per official data, inflow of water at Indus River at Guddu Barrage in Sindh on Saturday (Feb 20, 2010) was 30,600 cusecs, while it was recorded at 31,300 cusecs on the same day last year. The average flow during 2000-2009 on 10-daily basis also stood at 31,300 cusecs last Saturday.
Meanwhile, Punjab Senior Minister Raja Riaz, who also holds the portfolio of Irrigation and Power Department, told The News that the IRSA decision to release water into Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal was based on merit. However, he said keeping in view reservations expressed by the Sindh government, it has been agreed that both the federating units should accommodate each other in irrigation of crops irrespective of their due share under IRSA.
Consequently, he added, it was decided to sort out new water withdrawal plan by prioritising immediate irrigation needs of provinces. He said if a province used water from other’s share for meeting its urgent requirement, it would have to be returned later. He confirmed that Punjab has reduced its share from Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal from 6,000 cusecs to 3,000 cusecs.
Source: The News