It is not surprising that Pakistan – a largely agrarian based economy which draws its water from a sprawling network of rivers, canals and barrages – faces water shortage. The growing population has taxed the water supply beyond its capacity and the changing climate and lack of the required number of large scale storage facilities such as dams has further exacerbated the problem.

What is surprising however is, that in a country like this, where water management is perhaps the prime concern of the government and water sharing the most routine and important source of cooperation between the provinces and the federation, major disputes that threaten to go to court still exist. More worryingly, the only forum where they can be sufficiently addressed is the Council of Common Interests (CCI), a meeting of provincial Chief Ministers with the Prime Ministers and members of the Cabinet – which is held sporadically and deals with all issues of power sharing between the provinces, water just being one of the concerns.

While chairing a meeting at his Sindh residence in preparation of the upcoming CCI, the Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that in response to Balochistan filing a claim against Sindh for shortfall in the Pat Feeder and Kirthar Canal, Sindh will file a claim against the federal government for short supply from the Indus river system from 1991. While he directs his ministers to draw up a calculation of the total shortfall over the decades, Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has said Sindh is already getting its 500 cusecs water for Karachi from the IRSA under the water-sharing accord, but that number can be increased if the CCI authorises it.

It is evident that what is needed is a dedicated body that overlooks water sharing between the different provinces. It needs to be fully empowered to handle disputes, and empowered to make alterations to water quotas. Public claims by Chief Ministers should not be the method through which water sharing – a settled aspect of most governments – is handled.