KARACHI  -  The Sindh cabinet in its maiden meeting held under the chairmanship of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday took some important decision such as declared Thar and part of Umerkot as drought-hit areas, decided to allocate land for graveyard in Karachi and also decided to establish a desalination plant to provide drinking water to Karachiites.

The meeting was attended by all the eight ministers, two advisers, chief secretary, IG police and concerned secretaries.

The Sindh chief minister said that the last government of PPP had passed a three months budget to enable the caretaker government to make necessary expenditures upto September 2018. “Now, we have to make new budget before September 30 and present it in the house. “The financial situation of the province is not so good because the funds we were expecting from the federal government have not been received,” he said and talking about suo moto case regarding utilisation of luxury vehicles, Syed Murad Ali Shah directed the chief secretary to put the item in the agenda of the next cabinet so that appropriate decision about the vehicles could be taken.

The cabinet members took up the issue of Governor House and said that the federal government has decided to vacate the Governor House. Therefore, necessary decision about the Governor House may be taken. At this the chief minister asked Senior Member Board of Revenue Iqbal Durani about the title of the property of the Governor House. The chief minister was told that the Governor House/property belonged to Sindh government. The cabinet proposed to convert Governor House into a museum and its land would be used for public park if the governor chose to vacate it. Taking serious view of water supply schemes in Karachi, the chief minister directed minister local government to start work on war footings to install desalination plant in Karachi so that water issue of the city could be resolved as soon as possible.

Home Secretary and Inspector General of Police briefed the cabinet about law & order situation in the province.

Law & Order: Home Secretary Mohamad Haroon told the meeting that over all law & order situation in the entire province was well under control. The meeting was told that necessary instructions have been issued to commissioners, DCs, IG police, DIGs regarding law & order, cleanliness and other arrangements during Eid-ul-Azha. All the DCs have been authorized to issue licenses to dealers/charities to purchase and sell hides/skins during Eid after necessary verification and completion of legal formalities.  The cabinet was also informed that SOP /Zabtaita-e-Akhlaq regarding skin/hides issued in the both English and Urdu. The list of banned organisations (Schedule IV) has been publicised and provided to all the concerned authorities so that strict vigilance could be made on their activities.

IG Police briefing: The IG police briefing the cabinet about over all law and order situation said that movement on Sindh-Balochistan and Punjab borders in being monitored. The chief minister told the IG that on the eve of last Eid-ul-Azha terrorist has detonated a blast in Shikarpur, therefore the police should take strict measure in the entire belt of Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Dadu and nearby other districts.

Water position: Secretary Irrigation Jamal Shah briefed the cabinet about water position. He said that water shortage rice crop has suffered huge loss.

It may be noted that The Kharif seasons tarts from April 1 and continues upto September 30. The early Kharif starts from April 1 to June 10 and the late Karif is between June 1 to September 30. The early Kharif supplies are dependent on stored water in the reservoirs and inflow at rim stations.

The IRSA forecast issued in March was too optimistic. They told that in Sindh and Punjab that there would be 31 percent water shortage in early Kharif, 10 percent shortage in late Kharif, KPK and Balochistan were exempted from the shortage. Then the IRSA issued another revised shortage to 42 percent while the actual shortage was recorded at 58 percent.

The meeting was told that before entering into early Kharif both, Tarbella and Mangla went dry in first week of March 2018. Tarbella got empty touching Rs1386 and Mangla touched dead level at RL 1050.

The cabinet was told that Tarbella has present capacity of 6.05 and the storage as of April 1, 2018 was zero while the present capacity of Mangla is 7.40 and its storage as of April 1, 2018 was also zero. Inflows at Rim Stations in 2017 was one of the driest years and this year was even worse.  The water shortage in April 2018 was 45 percent, in May 53 percent, June 38 percent July 14percent and August 25 percent.  

The water shortages interface with the Accord was 60 percent in April, 54 percent in May, 45 percent in June, eight percent in July and 12 percent in August.

The meeting was told that the present discharge at Guddu is 256000 cusecs against accord allocation of 37000 while the withdrawals are 28765 cusecs. At Sukkur Barrage the actual discharge is 205000 against accord allocation 56600 cusecs while the withdrawals are 55645. The discharge of kotri Barrage is 52000 against accord allocation of 23400 cusecs and the withdrawals are 41835 cusecs.

The meeting was told that drinking water has been given top priority. Cotton cultivation has also been assigned priority as sowing is seasonally limited to May 31, 2018. Supplies for paddy seedlings deferred by one month means from June 10, 2018 and transplantation was consequently deferred till July 1. The schedules were publicized for the information of the growers. Water rotation plan was also publicized and implemented.  The chief minister said that with changing climatic order the water availability situation is expected to progressively worsen.

The Irrigation department spelt out possible way forward which include construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam, water conservation, switching over from conventional practices of flood irrigation to efficient practices. There was also an suggestion to differ rice sowing season by one month – fromMay 1 to June 15.

The irrigation department suggested strict implementation of embargo on rice cultivation on command of perennial canals such as Rohri, Nara Canals etc. It was also suggested that high delta crops may be substituted with valuable low delta crops and one watering in non-perennial areas be provided to support oil seed crops that survive on single watering. Ground water resources may be tapped and saline water agriculture may also be promoted. They also suggested construction Sehwan Barrage Complex w with Manchhar Lake as reservoir and Phuleli could be converted into a perennial canal. The chief minister said that Kinjhar, Haleji, Hadero and other depressions can also be developed as a reliable reservoir for water supply to Karachi and KB Feeder.

The chief minister directed provincial minister and advisers to visit barrages and get water briefing on the spot and report him. Provincial Minister Mir Shabirt Bijarani to vist Guddu Barrage, CM Adviser Mohammad Bux Maher to visit Sukkur Barrage, Ismail Rahu to Kotri Barrage and Syed Sardar Shah and Makhdoom Mahboob Zaman to visit left bank canals of the Sukkur Barrage.

The chief minister said that he had banned cultivation of rice on the left bank of River Indus. He directed the chief secretary to get report from all the DCs about the rice cultivation on the left bank of the river so that action could be taken.

Drought in Thar: Senior Member Board of Revenue Iqbal Durani briefed the cabinet on drought situation in Thar.

Drought is a period of usually dry weather that may stretch long enough to cause problems in region such as crop damage, affect livelihood of people.

Taluka Mithi received only 58 mm rain during last three months, June to August. Islamkot 24 mm, Diplo 51mm, Kaloi 10 mm, Chachhro 105 mm, Dahli 120 mm and Nagarparkar 40 mm. All the 167 dehs of all talukas of Tharparkar and 25 dehs of Umerkot are calamity hit areas. The population of Thar 1,617,175 and 216,206 has been affected. In Thar 323,435 families of Thar and 43240 families of Umerkot have been affected.

The BoR recommended that government dues may be postponed, remission of government duties such as land tax, agriculture income tax. Wheat may be distributed and funds for relief work may also be released.

The cabinet declared Thar and 25 dehs of Umerkot as calamity hit areas and decided to give them relief package which includes wheat distribution at the quantity of 50 kg per family per month. The chief minister directed the SMBR to seek drought position of Achhro Thar, Kachho and Kohistan from the concerned deputy commissioners so that the people living there could be helped out.    

The chief minister also constituted a committee comprising Revenue Minister Makhdoom Mahboob and Education Minister Syed Sardar Shah to visit Thar.