Islamabad - The multi-billion rupees Kachhi Canal Project has failed to achieve goal of irrigating around 700,000 acres of Balochistan land and currently irrigating only 10,000 acres of land, a parliamentary panel was informed yesterday.

Secretary Water Resources Shumail Ahmed Khawaja, briefing Senate Special Committee on Water Scarcity here, said, “RS 80 billion were spent on the Kachhi Canal and it was originally planned to irrigate 713,000 acres of land but the project was not properly executed and therefore currently irrigating only 10,000 acres.”

The meeting of the Senate Special Committee on Water Scarcity was held here with Senator Maula Bux Chandio in chair.

The meeting commenced with a briefing on the current water scarcity situation in Pakistan by Shumail Khawaja. He informed the committee that available water resources were 138 MAF with a storage capacity of 13.7 MAF which is only 10 percent of available water.

“Pakistan can store water for a maximum of 35 to 36 days which is way less than the rest of the world that can hold water reserves of up to 320 days,” he said.

Khawaja further stated that since water was a devolved subject, the four provinces were the key players. In order to come to a consensus on this all important issue, four sessions with chief ministers of all four provinces were held under the Council of Common Interests (CCI). After rigorous deliberations a consensus was achieved after which the National Water Policy was conceived. All provinces agreed to a Water Charter according to which no matter which party holds the reins of power, there shall be no change in the policy until 2030 on account of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The provinces were in agreement to build 10 MAF storages by 2030, he added. Agreement on the construction of Mohmand and Bhasha Dams were achieved as a result of this meeting.

Khawaja stressed the need to conserve water. He stated that 90-95 percent of Pakistan’s water is being used for irrigation; 50 per cent of which is lost during canal diversion. According to the National Water Policy until 2030, 33 percent of water should be conserved. However, this seems impossible in the current context. According to different reports 8-9 million acre feet of water can be conserved if this wastage is controlled. He further said that the National Water Council was established to achieve this goal. The panel was headed by the prime minister, chief ministers of the four provinces, prime minister of Azad Kashmir and chief minister Gilgit Baltistan. Some ministers and secretaries were also part of the team. As a result of detailed deliberations it was suggested that water distribution systems around the country be developed. However, lack of coordination got the better of it and nothing could be achieved in this regard. Senator Azam Khan Swati stressed the need to strengthen officers working on this daunting challenge. He also asserted that for any progress to be made it was imperative that awareness about this issue should be created at every tier of society.

Highlighting problems of the Sindh, Senator Sassui Palijo said that since yearly rainfall was rare in the province, the people of Sindh were dependent on its river systems for water. She stressed the need for equal distribution of water and implementation of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991 to address grievances of smaller provinces. She alleged that Sindh was not getting its share of water. Sussi, upset over Irsa member from Sindh, said he should quit if his voice was not being heard.  

The secretary water resources was of the view that for any progress to be made it was imperative that water distribution in the four provinces is regulated.

Discussing Senator Sherry Rehman’s notice on July 23 regarding need for installation of water desalination plants in the country, the PCWR informed the committee that when faced with acute water shortage desalination was the last option, due to exorbitant costs. Senator Kenneth John Williams was of the view that the option of installation of filtration plants on the coastal belt must also be explored.

The meeting was attended by Senator Sassui Palijo, Senator Dr. Ghous Muhammad Khan Niazi, Senator Brig. (R) John Kenneth Williams, Senator Muhammad Akram, Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and senior officers of the Ministry of Water Resources, Indus River System Authority (Irsa) and Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR).