Water dispute between provinces was once again echoes

Water dispute between provinces was once again echoed during the meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee of Water Resources on Thursday, both at the level of Irsa members representing provinces and Committee Members from Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab. The committee meeting was presided over by Khalid Magsi, who represents Balochistan Awami Party ( BAP) a coalition partner of the PTI in absence of committee Chairman Nawab Yousuf Talpur.

Water dispute between provinces was once again echoes

Accusations of injustice in water share and water stealth were hurled in response to a question by Member National Assembly, Khan Muhammad Jamali regarding non-supply of water to Balochistan.

The mover, Khan Muhammad Jamali argued that Sindh was not supplying the allocated share of water to Balochistan as water measurement system (telemetry system) was not working at points from where water is released to Balochistan. He further contended that water dispute was a very old issue between provinces.

“Earlier there was dispute between Sindh and Punjab and now Sindh is doing injustice to Balochistan,” he added.

The committee was informed that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) had directed the Chief Ministers of Balochistan and Sindh to sit together and resolve water dispute releases and installation of telemetry system. A meeting has been held between the two provinces, after which minutes were prepared and sent to Chief Minister Balochistan which are yet to be signed and returned.

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Mehar Ali Shah apprised the committee that in 2018, Sindh government had agreed in principle on installation of telemetry systems at barrages. Minister for Water Faisal Vawada met Chief Minister Sindh to discuss the installation of telemetry system however Sindh demanded that more sites in Punjab be added to the telemetry system to ensure full transparency in water accounting.

Mehar Ali Shah said Water Resources Ministry endorsed the demand of Sindh, and accordingly Irsa directed Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) which is preparing its PC-1 of telemetry system.

“This is a fact that substantial time has been spent on this system but now things are moving forward. However, this is so controversial and contentious issue that if a single step is taken against the confidence of federating units, then the entire concept is diminished,” he added.

Mehar Ali Shah maintained that this time the government is being extra careful and accommodating even very insignificant demands of provinces to make the project non controversial.

Chairman Irsa informed the committee that representatives of Pakistan Council of Research would be present to ensure transparency and a project monitoring committee of provinces will also be constituted.

The newly appointed Member Sindh, Zahid Hussain Junejo commented that issue of water distribution between Sindh and Balochistan and installation of telemetry system have been discussed with Chief Minister Sindh.

“Chief Minister is of the view that telemetry system should not only be installed in Sindh but also on canals in Punjab,” he added. Member Irsa, Balochistan Abdul Hameed Dogar said that Sindh’s highhandedness with Balochistan on water distribution is far more serious than Punjab’s with Sindh. His remarks attracted wider debate in the committee.

The Chairman asserted that Punjab which was an upper riparian province, not only engaged in highhandedness in the past with Sindh but this practice is still going on. His remarks were endorsed by Ms Nuzhat Pathan. However, Ch Riaz-ul-Haq challenged the remarks of both presiding officer and Ms Nuzhat Pathan, saying “don’t say Punjab is continuously doing injustice with Sindh. If I say that telemetry system has been destroyed by Sindh, it will offend you.” After comments of Ch. Riaz-ul-Haq the discussion turned to other agenda items.

Member Balochistan, who continuously raised his hand was not allowed to speak further on water dispute with Balochistan. On a question from Ch Riaz-ul-Haq, Chairman Irsa stated that water is being distributed among provinces under three tier formula of Water Accord 1991. However, Member Sindh Irsa said that three tier formula is against the spirit of Water Accord 1991.

According to an official statement, the committee was assured that local candidates including the candidates from Gilgit-Baltistan will be given preference to meet man power requirements for Diamar Bhasha Dam.

The Standing Committee was informed that 169 posts have been advertised for Diamar Bhasha Dam out of which only 4 vacancies have been collectively allocated to Gilgit-Baltistan, FATA and Minorities. The Committee was apprised that according to the Esta Code special preference is given to local candidates for appointment against the posts from grade 1-15. The Standing Committee directed that no appointment should be made against the said advertisement till the issue of quota for the candidates of Gilgit-Baltistan is resolved in accordance with relevant rules.

The Standing Committee was informed that Rs. 120 million per annum is the expenditure of maintenance and administration of C-J Link Canal. Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Punjab take benefit from the canal. WAPDA has been mandated to look after and maintain the canal but no one is giving its contribution to WAPDA. However, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has agreed to pay Rs 30 million per annum to WAPDA for transitory period.

Standing Committee directed the concerned Ministry to consult IRSA, Government of Punjab, WAPDA and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and resolve the issue and submit compliance report in the next meeting of the Committee. Standing Committee was briefed about the poor management of Rawal Dam.

It was informed that the Government was keenly interested to promote tourism but in contradiction to the policy of the Government, the administration of Rawal Dam does not allow the public to have access to Rawal Dam. The Standing Committee appointed a Sub-Committee, under convenership of Ali Nawaz Awan, MNA, to examine the issues related to administration, environment and distribution of water and report to the committee in thirty days. Members National Assembly Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik, Ms. Naureen Farooq Khan, and Ch. Muhammad Hamid Hameed will be Members of the Sub-Committee.

The Standing Committee deferred the issue of Sindh Barrage and directed that a comprehensive briefing be given in the next meeting. The Standing Committee was informed that like C-J Link Canal the beneficiaries of Hub Dam are also not contributing anything due to which the project of Hub Dam is regularly facing financial problem. The Standing Committee directed the Ministry of Water Resources to address this issue also on priority basis and a compliance report be submitted to the Committee.

Those who attended the meeting were Member National Assembly, Ali Nawaz Awan, Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, Ch Shokat Ali Bhatti Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik, Ch. Javed Iqbal Warraich, Ms Naureen Farooq Khan, Ms. Nuzhat Pathan, Ch. Hamid Hameed, Ch. Riaz-ul-Haq, Afreen Khan and Mir Khan Muhammad Jamali.

Originally published by Brecorder