Islamabad - Pakistan’s irrigation system is likely to lose 28 feet water intake from Tarbella and Mangla reservoirs as the WAPDA Friday proposed increasing minimum conservation level for Tarbela at 1,386 feet instead of 1,380 feet, and 10.62 feet for Mangla dam against existing 10.4 feet.

The WAPDA has proposed increasing the minimum storage capacity of Tarbela Dam to 1,386 feet from the existing 1,380 feet and of Mangla Dam to 1,062 feet from the existing 1,040 feet.

The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has also asked the government to start building dams on a war-footing basis as the storage capacity in both Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs was declining due to silting. The announcement came after a meeting of IRSA advisory committee was chaired by Syed Mazhar Ali Shah here on Friday.

The meeting of the advisory committee was convened to discuss the provision of water to Balochistan for Kacchi Canal and the water dispute between Sindh and Balochistan.

The advisory committee estimated that Punjab and Sindh will face up to 20 percent water shortage for upcoming Rabi season, said IRSA Spokesperson Khalid Rana while to talking to media after the meeting. He said that the meeting estimated the total water availability of 29.48 million acre feet (MAF) including 24 MAF from river flows and about 7.8 MAF currently stored in two reservoirs.

The advisory committee allocated 1.9 MAF for Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Similarly the meeting also allocated 0.1 MAF for the Kachhi canal, and as a result, Balochistan would get 1.23 MAF during Rabi against the share of 1.02 MAF. KP would get 714,000 MAF, Punjab 15.72 MAF and Sindh would get 11.90 MAF, while the remaining water will be distributed among Punjab and Sindh, he said. 

The Water Accord 1991 empowered the IRSA to determine water availability in the country and allocating provincial share twice a year, once for Kharif season and the other for Rabi season. Rabi season starts from October 1 and Kharif starts from April 1.

Since Balochistan and KP were exempted from cuts in the share, the water shortage would be distributed between Sindh and Punjab.

The IRSA spokesperson said that to end a longstanding dispute between Sindh and Balochistan and to ensure the later get its due water share, the meeting approved a revised rating table for Pat Feeder and Kirthar canals. Sindh has opposed to the revised benchmarks.

Rana said that the meeting was informed by the WAPDA that silting was reducing the storage capacity of Tarbella and Mangla reservoirs. It has proposed increasing minimum storage level of Tarbela Dam to 1,386 feet instead of 1380 feet and that of Mangla Dam at 10.62 feet against the existing 10.40 feet. The IRSA has proposed that a further study should be carried out to firm up the data.

The IRSA spokesperson said that Punjab also raised the issue of declining water storage year-by-year. He maintained that IRSA agreed that the declining water storage capacity was a serious issue and demanded that work on the construction of additional reservoirs should be started on a war-footing basis.

Rana said that the IRSA believed the country needed to build several additional dams without wasting time. He said that it was the responsibility of other institutions to find an appropriate location and study their pros and cons but there was no denying the fact that the reservoirs were losing capacity.

He said that the storage capacity of Tarbela had dropped to 5.6 MAF from 6MAF and it was required of under para-6 of the water accord to build dams wherever possible.

Responding to a question, he said that there was no disparity in water share for Rabi allocations and it was decided with the consensus that water distribution should be made under para-2 of the accord.

He said that Sindh and Punjab were provided water share for the Kharif season according to their demand while 9.5 MAF went to the sea because of the lack of storage capacity.

The meeting also discussed the operational criteria for filling of Tarbela Dam and the WAPDA assured the meeting that it would abide by the approved criteria for the next Kharif season that required the filling storage at the rate of one foot per day after the conservation level of 1510 feet.