Pakistan’s interprovincial water dispute remains unresolved particularly between Sindh and Punjab even three decades after the signing of the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991. Punjab and Sindh share a long history of the dispute over their share in water and its use.
Sindh alleges that the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord does not guarantee minimum ‘environmental flow’ of river waters. It also accuses Punjab of stealing its share in water seriously impacting its delta ecosystems.
Apart from these, Sindh also believes that the extraction of water for building dams and irrigation in upstream provinces will deprive it of its needs. Also, there exists a general consensus in Sindh that the then PML-N Government had pulled off the accord through coercion.
All in all, Sindh wants its water share on the basis of the availability of the 114.35 MAF as assumed in the 1991 Water Apportionment Accord. Perhaps, this is the reason why PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has put forth the demand for the new interprovincial water-sharing arrangement.
Meanwhile, Punjab shares its own version of reservations over the data of water losses between the barrages of Sindh. It also alleges that the Sindh misreports water flows.
Punjab’s Irrigation Minister Mohsin Leghari blames that the distribution of water is based on the “hypothetical” figure of the assumed 114.35 MAF contrary to the availability of 102.73 MAF at the time when the agreement was signed.
He says that the Sindh demands its share be given to it in accordance with the 1991 accord without undertaking the fact that the new provinces have not been constructed yet. Pointing towards another flaw in the water accord Mr. Leghari says that the storage capacity of the existing dams was not brought under due consideration whilst deciding the share of water among the provinces.
Experts including engineers and scientists have now called for fresh studies on water availability in the system because of the belief that the climatic changes and rapid population growth have reduced the water flows over the last three decades. Commenting on the water distribution crisis among the provinces IRSA Chief says that it is purely a technical issue.
Researchers are of the view that the 1991 agreement is ambiguous and open to interpretations. For instance, it stipulates the allocation of 114.35 MAF of water during the Kharif and Rabi seasons while there has never been that much quantity of water in the system.
According to IRSA, water shortages have ravaged between 10 percent and 28 percent between the years 1993 and 2020. For the remaining 10 years, the water shortages were collected between 4 percent and 9 percent.
IRSA Chairman contends that the provinces are making an unnecessary political problem out of a purely technical issue. Commenting on the technicality of the water dispute Mr.Khan uttered that he acts very cautiously being a regulator especially during the early Kharif Season when the country goes through extreme water poverty.
In April, Sindh was sowing cotton and needed more water so it was given additional water on the basis of 17 pc shortages to complete its sowing. Likewise, Punjab was compensated for its April loss and that the share of both provinces would be equalized by June 10 when the early Kharif Cycle ends.