Islamabad - The federal government has failed to develop consensus about the proposed National Water Policy among stakeholders after it refused to incorporate Sindh’s several recommendations in the national plan.

The Sindh’s recommendations regarding adequate releases downstream Kotri, implementation of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991, making flood protection as federal funded subjects and empowering the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in resolving the water disputes were not incorporated in the National Water Policy (NWP), official documents available with The Nation reveal.

However, following the Sindh’s proposals, a clause was added to the NWP, which calls for “building large dams for system augmentation with the consensus of all stakeholders/provinces”.

The NWP is likely to be tabled before CCI today (Wednesday) and will be discussed to develop consensus among the stakeholders.

In response to the wording of “build large dams for system augmentation” under the NWP, Sindh has proposed to add “build large dams for system augmentation with the consensus of all stakeholders/ provinces” and the proposal has incorporated in the national plan.

In its comments on the proposed NWP, the Sindh government had also recommended maintaining ecology, aqua life and securing the deltaic area from sea intrusion, but it was not incorporated in the water policy.

Similarly, a proposal to ensure implementation of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991 in true letter and spirit, avoid distortions like “3-tier formula” under the pretext of majority decision at the IRSA level was also not incorporated in the policy.

Similarly, it was proposed by the Sindh government that the flood protection should be awarded the status of the federal subject and all capital investment should be provided by the federal government, as the basin system is integrated and the riparian province has the responsibility to dispose run-of-run water from upper provinces in a safe manner.

As such, at least monetary aspects shall be shared by all provinces and the federal government. However, the proposals were rejected by the federal government stating that provinces were responsible for the routine repair and maintenance of flood protection dykes, flood fighting and drainage. In case of a major catastrophic like 2010 floods, the federal government will provide supplementary funds.

The proposed NWP envisages a national body named “National Water Commission” (NWC) with Federal Minister for Water and Power as its chairman.

The prime function of the NWC shall be to oversee the implementation of the policy and issue directives to relevant departments/organizations as and when deemed necessary. It shall meet at least once a year or whenever deemed necessary. The NWC shall perform the function including recommending legislation, policies and strategies for water resources development and management in the country, see all water-related activities in the fields of irrigation, drainage, flood control, hydropower and all other optimal and economical use of national water resources etc.

The Sindh has, however, rejected the NWC and in its comments said under the NWP, the provincial government has contended that article 155 (2) of the Constitution provides the CCI with the option to constitute a commission for resolving water disputes, albeit, on a complaint received from any province or the federal government. The mandate of such commission would be restricted to the particular dispute, it is made for.

“The proposed NWC under water policy would be a permanent body with a much larger scope of functions. Moreover, the proposed policy steering committee to oversee and monitor the policy implementation guidelines given by the NWC through policy implementation cell, makes the NWC look like a permanent institution – something the Constitution doesn’t provide”, it said. Sindh has demanded that “if at all, the CCI is for establishing NWC,  its chairman should be a provincial chief minister on rotation with adequate and equal representation from the federating units. As an alternative option, the ministry of water resources has been advised to incorporate the status of NWC as an advisory body and decisions shall be implemented with the consensus of provinces being the prime stakeholders in aspects of water and this role should be performed by the CCI and not the NWC.

Although the proposals of Sindh had not been incorporated, it has been proposed that instead of the Federal Minister for Water and Power as chairman of the NWC, now the prime minister will be its head.

The Sindh recommendations regarding securing Katcha areas and economy, preserving the delta area by providing sufficient supplies regularly and rainwater disposal arrangement in plains, where it cannot be disposed of or diverted in the river, had been incorporated in the NWP.