Karachi - Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that water shortage in Kharif is expected from 10 to 60 percent; therefore he has directed the Irrigation Department to evolve a strategy to face the shortages, with a particular focus on the provision of drinking water.

He was presiding over a meeting on expected water shortages during the upcoming Kharif season here at the CM House on Monday.

The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Rizwan Memon, Principal Secretary to CM Naveed Kamran Baloch, Secretary Irrigation Syed Jamal Shah and other concerned officers and engineers.

While briefing the chief minister, Secretary Irrigation Jamal Shah said that the water availability in the basin had been below the allocated discharge since March 9, 2017. “The situation has worsened with the new spell of snowfall in Northern Areas and reduction in temperatures. The run-off from the catchments has reduced which has resulted in alarming depletion of Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs,” he informed.

He said that indent of Sindh at Chashma Barrage on March 2, 10 daily was 40,000 CFS against which 22,798 CFS was the total flow of the downstream Chashma. “This includes Punjab’s requirement of canals off-taking from Taunsa Barrage,” he said, and added, “The secretary said that the expected shortage would start from March 18, starting from 10 percent to 60 percent in the first 10-daily of April.” The secretary further informed that the situation was similar to that of 2012; better prospect this time is that the snow fall in 2017 has been more than that received in 2012.

He disclosed that the complication is the abrupt fall in Skardu temperatures. “IRSA has warned that if melting of snow and rainfall are delayed, the situation may further aggravate and may extend to the end of April 2017,” he added.

The chief minister reminded the secretary irrigation that he had directed him to hold a meeting with chief engineers of all three barrages and discuss the way forward in order to face the maximum shortage that the province would face.  The secretary said that he had held a meeting with the chief engineers at which an optimum strategy was chalked out.

Talking about the strategy, he said that on March 31 there would be scheduled yearly closure of Guddu Barrage. “Till that time the pond level would be lowered and maintained at RL 249 for supplying water to Balochistan (1000 CFS), power station and Ghotki Canal (1000 CFS),” the secretary said and added, “On April 1, the barrage gates would be fully raised and all water would be released to downstream.”

Talking about the Sukkur Barrage, he said that the total withdrawal of Sukkur Barrage would be 10,100 CFS during the shortage. “On the right bank NWC & Dadu Canal would be closed on March 31 under the scheduled closure. Balochistan’s share in March 3, 10-daily from Sukkur Barrage right bank is 700 CFS which would be ensured till March 31,” he said, and added, “However, NWC & Dadu Canal are reduced proportionately.” Khairpur Feeder East and West would be released 650 CFS each (-50%). Rohri Canal would be operated in three and would receive 5000 CFS. Nara Canal would also be operated in two groups and would receive 3800 CFS.

 Describing the strategy about Kotri Barrage, Jamal Shah said that 3000 CFS would be released for the barrage from the Sukkur Barrage. “The allocation of Kotri Barrage during March 3, 10 daily is 4000 CFS,” he said, and added, “With the improvement of flows in Sukkur, priority would be given to Kotri Barrage to meet its drinking water needs and early Kharif requirements. During April 1, 10-daily, the Kotri allocation is 6500 CFS.”

The chief minister directed the Irrigation Department officials to intimate public about the shortage of water immediately. “The information should also be disseminated that the priority will be given to meet drinking water needs,” he directed.

He said that late sowing might also be publicised for the cotton crop; from May 1 for Nara and Rohri Canals and May 15 for Ghotki Canal. “For the pedi /rice cultivation, after observing situation at the end of April, a fresh strategy may be formed to facilitate khatedars of rice canal commands,” he suggested.

Murad further said that adjustment in the canal discharge to manage the shortage should be made after consultations and advice by the concerned chief engineers. “Kotri Barrage would receive water proportionately. However, priority be given to meet the drinking water needs,” he instructed.

The secretary irrigation replied that almost all the canals had to bear 50 percent shortage in the supply of water. “However, the experience of dealing with such a situation already exists and would be dealt accordingly,” he hoped. He said that the operation of Kinjhar Lake would be optimized to cater to the water requirements of people of Karachi.

The chief minister directed the irrigation department to advise the KWSB to make optimum use of water and look to the shortage of flows in all rivers.