ISLAMABAD  -   Pakistan has failed to respond with a collective approach to the sensitive issue of trans-border water dispute with India as the office of Chief Engineering Adviser/Federal Flood Commission was completely ignored for technical advice in talks in the Permanent Indus Water Commission (PIWC).

Since 2013-todate no single trans-boundary water issue being dealt with India was referred to the technical advisory of CEA and even on 115th PIWC meeting, the CEA office has not been engaged but on the other hand there was heavy representation from the NESPAK, said a letter written by Chief Engineering Advisor/Chairman Federal Flood Commission Ahmed Kamal to the Federal Secretary for Water Resources.

“The office of CEA records its strong reservations/concerns over its exclusion as advisory from trans-boundary water issues being dealt with India and said that they firmly believed that it could have given a very active advisory in framing Pakistan’s response to various trans-boundary issues, which at present are not in favour of Pakistan,” letter said. “In nutshell we have not been able to move on this sensitive issue with collective wisdom/approach,” the letter added.

The two-day talks of the Permanent Indus Water Commission were held in Lahore last week to discuss Pakistan reservations against the construction of illegal dams on River Chenab by India.

Despite facing acute shortage of technical workforce, the office of Chief Engineering Advisor is being completely ignored for technical advice in a trans-border water dispute with India and was completely kept out during the last month IWC talks held in Lahore, the letter said. Not only the CEA but Punjab Irrigation Department and Pakistan Metrological Department were kept out of the negotiation with Indian visiting delegation, it added.

One of the functions of Civil Engineering Cell of the CEA/CFFC is to provide expert advice on international disputes arising out of the works constructed or likely to be constructed in neighbouring countries having repercussions on the river flows of Pakistan.

It seems logical and fair enough for the PCIW office and for that matter the Ministry of Water Resources to also take the CEA office on board in terms of establishing official point of view for taking up with the neighbouring countries regarding water related issues especially in view of current scenario in which there is an acute shortage of technical staff in PCIW office, the role of other related technical departments particularly CEA office become more pronounced. It may also be placed on record that since May 2013 no issue(Except Khari-I Small Plant on Mohu Mangat Nallah, a sub- tributary to the Chenab River) relating to trans-border water had ever been sent to this office for want of technical input/advice.

The letter further alleged that a six members Pakistani delegation led by Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah, Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters, visited India from March 28-31 2018 to attend the 114th meeting of Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) under the provisions of Indus Water Treaty 1960. The Pakistan delegation comprised members from PCIW office, WAPDA and NESPAK. Ironically, CEA, Punjab Irrigation Department and PMD were kept aloof from the said visit. Recently this office has not been invited in the internal meeting held on August 15, 2018 regarding preparation of the stance for the 115th PIC meeting. Moreover, the Indian Delegation visited Pakistan for 115th meeting of the PIC meeting with Pakistani counterparts (29-30 August, 2018). Again the CEA office has not been engaged and there was heavy representation from NESPAK on other hand.

The CEA/CFFC office is an agency under the Ministry of Water Resources, which provides its advisory services to Ministry of Water Resources on issues i.e Engineering matter i.e Water and Power sector including flood control (protection & mitigation), dam safety, irrigation, drainage, and hydro-power, besides, other allied engineering matters at national level. The Federal Flood Commission (FFC) is one of major wings of office of the CEA/CFFC mainly responsible for the preparation of National Flood Protection Plans. The Chief Engineering Advisor in extended office capacity acts as Chairman Federal Flood Commission.