LAHORE: With rivers’ flow dropping to a historic low for September and water in reservoirs of both the major dams depleting fast over the past few days, Pakistan seems to be heading for a disastrous
Rabi season and a more severe food crisis. According to officials of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa), the country may face a staggering water shortage of up to 40 per cent during the season if the current trend continues. A sudden and unusual drop in temperature in the northern areas had brought the base flow of all rivers down, they said.
The dams are facing double pressure – on the one hand inflows have dropped and on the other, provinces are demanding higher water release in order to save standing crops. Irsa has called a meeting on Saturday to discuss what one of its officials termed an “alarming situation”. The provincial secretaries were asked to be prepared for a meeting even earlier, said Irsa member Shafaqat Masood. They, however, agreed to meet on Saturday.
The agenda before the authority was to balance out the current crisis and future Rabi needs, he said. “The situation in September has never been this bad. But sparing five to 10 per cent water from current demand should not be a problem for the provinces. However, only the provincial secretaries can decide about that. Saturday’s meeting will be crucial in this regard.”
Inflow in the Indus River on Wednesday fell to 70,000 cusecs – the lowest in three decades. River Jhelum recorded an inflow of 20,000 cusecs, Kabul 20,300 cusecs and Chenab 25,000 cusecs. Punjab and Sindh have placed an indent of over 115,000 cusecs each for crops which are at a crucial stage of maturity.
Officials of the Punjab irrigation and agriculture departments met on Wednesday and will have another session on Thursday to hammer out a strategy. Punjab has conveyed to Irsa that it has to save the cotton and rice crops. It says the two cash crops cannot be made to suffer for the sake of Rabi season. The Punjab government also suspects some tampering with the Chenab flow by India. It has fallen to an abysmal 25,000 cusecs. The provincial government has written to the Indus commissioner about the matter and is likely to take up the matter with the ministries of water and power and foreign