A severe water shortage in the country has the provinces at loggerheads again. On Saturday, the Indus River System Authority tried and failed to resolve the differences between the provinces and so has called for another meeting on Feb 11. It appears that Irsa is hoping for two things to happen in the meantime: one, for the predicted precipitation to materialise and boost the country’s critically low water supplies; and two, for the provinces’ demand for water to ease as the next phase in the winter crop season begins. Essentially, Irsa is hoping for Mother Nature to intervene. Disputes between the provinces over water are as old as the country itself and with the water shortage this winter season now estimated to be at 34 per cent, it’s no surprise the provinces are squabbling again. But not all disagreements are inevitable. For example, Sindh has accused Punjab of ‘stealing’ 16,000 cusecs of water between Taunsa and Guddu over three days earlier this month. For its part, Punjab claims that ‘system losses’ are to blame for the water that ‘disappeared’. The only reason the provinces can argue over this issue is that there is no centralised telemetry system that can measure water flows at the nearly two dozen points at which water is discharged nationally. In the early 2000s, several hundred million rupees were spent on one such system but it barely functioned for a couple of months.
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Part of the reason for the failure is corruption: poorly paid local Wapda officials are always susceptible to bribery. Yet, difficult though it may be to implement, a centralised telemetry system is the only long-term answer to such disputes. The provinces have shown maturity in reaching a consensus on the NFC award, so perhaps now it’s time for them to turn their attention to water issues. From the amount of water available to its storage to its discharge for agricultural purposes, serious challenges confront the country. Keep in mind that over 40 per cent of the country’s labour force is employed in the agricultural sector. The provincial and federal governments owe it to the people of Pakistan to stop bickering and start finding solutions.
By: Dawn News