Sindh-Punjab water crisis


Courtesy: Daily Dawn, Saturday, 04 Jul, 2009

THIS is apropos of two reports (June 22) on the water crisis, followed by an editorial. Two groups of tail-end users had agitated for water shortage in Hyderabad and at Wagah border. One group demanded of the rulers to release water. The other group, under the banner of Pakistan Muttahida Kissan Mahaz, protested against cut in river water by India. Unfortunately, Sindh demands water from Punjab and Punjab is crying against India that the neighbouring country is responsible for the damage of its agriculture system.

In this regard Dawn printed a picture showing the peasants on the Wagah border shouting against acute shortage of water.

Furthermore, a group of parliamentarians has been very vocal on the issue of water shortage. A Punjab MPA has threatened to resign if Irsa was forced to implement the water accord signed in 1991.

The fact is that Punjab had sold its share of water under the agreement of the Indus Water Basin Treaty signed by the then West Pakistan Government in 1960 brokered by the World Bank.

Now India has started constructing big dams on Sutlej and Ravi rivers. According to the treaty, three eastern rivers (Beas, Ravi and Sutlej) were given to India for exclusive use and the three western rivers (Indus, Jehlum and Chenab) to Pakistan, with some rights to India for power generation and irrigation.

The treaty signed by Pakistan and India was without participation of any one from Bengal and Sindh as water experts. Usually, Punjab favours building a big dam like the Kalabagh dam.

On this front, the PML(Q) has formed a committee to negotiate with the opponent of the Kalabagh dam.

Astonishingly, Punjab civil society has now admitted that the Indus Water Treaty was a big mistake. Punjab feels that the action taken by India is an economic problem, aimed at damaging its agriculture.

Unfortunately, Pakistan did not move its case in the right direction. It says that India has blocked Pakistan’s irrigation water, creating a drought-like situation in Punjab with the building of new dams on three rivers which India had bought from Pakistan on payment of pounds 62m for replacement works during the first martial law imposed by Ayub Khan.

Unfortunately, the entire money paid by India under the agreement of Indus Basin Water Treaty was incurred on the lining and remodelling of canals and barrages located in Punjab.

A very crucial para was also included in the agreement and accepted by the then government which is reproduced here: “A transition period of 10 years ending March 31, 1970 during which Pakistan shall receive for unrestricted use specified quantity of water of the eastern rivers which would be released by India.

“After the termination of transit period, Pakistan shall have no right on water flow of the eastern rivers released by India. The transition period could be extended a maximum period of three years on payment of a penalty”.

In the light of above para, out of five rivers, Punjab had sold its three rivers to India, and India started building big dams on those rivers without informing Pakistan. Ultimately, since the last couple of years the flow of water has been reduced to almost dead level.

It is affecting the agriculture system of Punjab province.

According to Pakistan’s point of view that the treaty was accepted in 1960 on the assurance that India will never interrupt the water flow of other rivers, India did not honour its promise.

Therefore, Pakistan has taken the matter to international forums against the big dams being constructed by India on the eastern rivers.

On the other hand, Punjab is laying great emphasis on building the Kalabagh dam on the upper riparian of the Indus river system.

Sindh always shows its displeasure on the construction of big dams which shall restrict the water flow from the Indus River to the lower riparian, creating a catastrophic situation for Sindh and its agriculture sector.

It will slouch the economy of Sindh. So Sindh and Sindhis have been agitating against construction of big dams. Ironically, when India builds dams to block the water of lower riparian, we call it an economic problem, and when Wapda builds a dam and blocks the water of the lower riparian, we call it a political problem. Is this not a double standard?




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