The verbal tussle between the provinces of Punjab and Sindh over water continues, as both demand more of a share than is currently being granted to them. The fault in this does not lie with the provincial governments; the biggest issue currently is that when the Water Accord 1991 was drafted, the calculations of water shares made within were based on an assumption that the water levels of the country would rise above 114 Million Acre-Foot (MAF). This expectation was based on plans to construct new large-scale water reservoirs, which as we know based on the debate surrounding the dam funds, never really happened.

In 2019, Pakistan is closer to the 102 MAF level that existed in 1991, instead of reaching the optimistic target of 114 MAF identified in the water accord. If anything, the water levels and capacities of various reservoirs have only reduced, due to issues such as silting. Scientific data and precise measurements on current water levels are urgently needed to assess the real situation; how much water does Pakistan truly have and what has it lost over the years? The need for relying on calculations made decades previously would be eliminated if a clearer picture of the current situation was provided by the government.

This basically means that the demand of the Sindh government to allocate water based on the proposed 114 MAF level according to the water accord is just not possible, even if it is legally within the rights of the province to ask for this disbursal. Sindh must face this reality and this failure to secure the requisite water levels for all provinces should make both the federal and provincial governments more cognisant of the imperative need to counter the impending water scarcity situation that the country is facing.

The Punjab government is not wrong to point to the country’s depleted water levels as a vindication of its stance in not being able to grant more water to Sindh, however, as a lower riparian province, Sindh’s arguments of water theft and run-off leading to a depletion of their share is something that both the centre and Punjab should take more seriously. The southern province repeatedly gets less than its share of water due to the issues highlighted above and Punjab remains unaffected, which naturally brings strife to the discussions surrounding water shares. Both Punjab and Sindh should look to prevent losses in their jurisdiction so that this regular argument is put to bed once and for all.