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Indus water treaty.

Indus Water Treaty The benefits to the country to flow from the accord and efficient utilisation of the waters appears to be very impressive. It is estimated that about five million more acres of land can be irrigated, vastly increasing agricultural output, including a rise of two million tons of wheat. Thus a loss of Rs. 50 million suffered by Pakistan annually would be saved. Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz estimated a gain of Rs. 20 billion to the nation annually through bringing millions of acres of land under cultivation.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif's Government should be congratulated for the successful conclusion of the Water Accord signed by the four provincial Chief Ministers on the eve of 44th Pakistan Day. The accord has been hailed with great fanfare by the political leaders and considered it a great breakthrough.

The historic accord would enable the provinces to assess the possibility and determine the location of water storage projects on the basis of their allotted share. The agreement has been designed to satisfy the demands of the provinces on an equitable basis but much will depend on the mechanism evolved for its implementation.

The agreement gives 55.94 million acre feet (MAF) of water to the Punjab, and 48.76 MAF to Sindh. But in the case of Sindh around 10 MAF of water will go down to the sea. The Punjab has been unhappy that Sindh has been letting too much of water flow into the sea; but the fact is that the very low level of the Indus after Thatta had made the sea water come up and destroy some of the vegetation.

The provinces have agreed not to waste any water. Water surplus in any province in any year will be provided to another province but without making that a precedent for the future. What the agreement provides for is provincial autonomy in respect of water use for all provinces. Each province is free to use or store the water in the manner it chooses under the agreed quotas. That means Sindh could go ahead with its Rakhi and Sewan irrigation projects, the Punjab with its Thal and Dajal Extension projects and NWFP with Pheru High Level Canal. This autonomy, denied to the provinces through excessive inter-provincial recrimination over a very long period, is very valuable.

The benefits to the country to flow from the accord and efficient utilisation of the waters appears to be very impressive. It is estimated that about five million more acres of land can be irrigated, vastly increasing agricultural output, including a rise of two million tons of wheat. Thus a loss of Rs. 50 million, suffered by Pakistan annually would be saved. Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz estimated a gain of Rs. 20 billion to the nation annually through bringing millions of acres of land under cultivation.

The settlement of 70 years old water dispute within seven months could be a great feat nevertheless the secrecy in which the inter-provincial negotiations were conducted appears somewhat intriguing. The full script of the accord has yet to be made public. Benazir Bhutto strongly criticised the Water Accord. She maintained that it has paved the way for the construction of Kalabagh Dam. She asserted that the water accord had damaged the federation and the integrity of the country. According to Ms. Bhutto, the temporary arrangements have been made permanent and the construction of the Kalabagh Dam was being made practical. The main defect of the accord was that all the four provinces have been given the right to storage of water and the province of Sindh which is at the tail end would have no water to store. Thus all the four crops including the sugarcane crops would be badly affected. PPP expert committee is scrutinizing the accord. If the committee came to the conclusion that the accord was harmful to Sindh or the federation the party would challenge it in the courts.

The Sindh branch of JUI (Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Group) has also indicated to challenge the accord in the Supreme Court. The partys Sindh branch had appointed a committee of experts to prepare a case. JUI would accept only 1945 Punjab - Sindh agreement.

The Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz agreed that the accord has cleared the way to build at least one dam on Indus River. It could be Bhasha or Kalabagh Dam. Pakistan needed 12 dams to meet its energy and agriculture requirements. If it is true that the whole accord is just to secure clearance for the construction of Kalabagh Dam under the provision of water storage facility in the agreement it would spell disaster for the federation. Kalabagh Dam can only be taken up after consensus regardless of how the accord is interpretted. This is an issue on which the experts can come to an agreement within the proposed Indus Water Authority.

To reap the benefit of accord the Government would need an estimated Rs. 105 billion over the next ten years. Accordingly the government would need to mobilise at least Rs. 10 billion annually for the construction of the projects for harnessing water resources now being lost. If we deduct the present allocation of Rs. 6 billion now being spent on water projects the Government would need at least Rs. 6 billion annually. How the Government would raise the extra fund in view of the reluctance of multilateral aid agencies to release aid for construction projects. Would the landed aristocracy accept the mobilisation of huge amount of about 6 billion through the imposition of tax on their agricultural incomes. In the absence of any financial package the accord would be meaningless and would not worth the paper on which it was drafted.

Punjab's argument that Sindh was letting too much of water into the sea was not valid. If water was not discharged from the Indus River to the sea a vast land of the delta would turn into marshy land and the entire land would become barren. At least 10 MAF water should be discharged to the sea from the Indus.

Thus under the new agreement the share of Sindh has been reduced and the separate water for Karachi has also been withdrawn. Yet another gross injustice with Sindh is that while Balochistan and NWFP have been given guarantees for their authorised quota of water, no such guarantee is given to the allocation of water for Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh.

According to experts the available water is not 114.8 MAF per year as given in the accord. The maximum availability including the ground water recharge and conservation has never exceeded 104 MAF per year. In the Sindh-Punjab agreement of 1945 the actual flow comes to 101 MAF. Mr. Justice Fazle Akber put it at 103 MAF. Mr. Justice Haleem also put it at 103 MAF. According to experts the present level of withdrawals from Indus was 104 MAF. There is urgent need that the data and information regarding the availability of water in the Indus as shown in the accord should be authenticated by experts. Otherwise the accord would become a perennial cause of conflict.

A large number of Sindh political leaders including Mumtaz Bhutto and Rasul Bux Palejo have condemned the signing of the accord without discussing it in the provincial assemblies. The Sindh Democrats Group (SDG) has raised several objections to the accord. Some valid points may be enumerated hereunder: * The new irrigation projects to be initiated should not be

left to the provinces as has been decided in the

agreement. They must get approval from the proposed

Indus River System Authority (IRSA). If it is not done.

Sindh fears will prove true. These fears are based on

its past experience that its due water right will be

violated by force and manipulated by the Punjab as it

has been taking away Sindh water from Indus since

1945. * The LBOD project has been allocated water out of

flood supplies and out of Sindh's share. Every one

knows that flood duration lasts only three or four

months, from where, the water will be obtained for

LBOD during the remaining eight months. Sindh is

justified to claim water for LBOD project out of common

water of Indus. The LBOD project has been approved

by the government that it will be the perennial system.

The project is being funded by the World Bank and

other international donor agencies. * The headquarter of the Indus River System Authority

(IRSA) should be located in Karachi. There is bitter and

painful, experience of WAPDA headquarter in Lahore. * The role of IRSA should be well defined and it must be

made inter-provincial organisation. * The approval of the agreement by the Sindh

government is politically biased and imposed on the people of

Sindh. Since no approval on the agreement has been

sought from the Sindh Assembly. * The consideration of hot weather in the crop delta of

Sindh and absence of water storage facilities in the

province have not been considered in the agreement. * The clause |E' of article 14 of the agreement is vague

and will lead to dispute among the provinces. The

historical evidence suggests that the Punjab has

always violated the agreements made with Sindh and

has harmed the legitimate rights of Sindh. * In the agreement, the distribution of surpluses has

been decided but no concrete formula has been

devised in case of shortage of water in clause |C' of the

Article 14 of the agreement, the vague statement given

that the existing reservoirs would be operated with

priority for the irrigation uses of the provinces. * The construction of water storages or dams on Indus

and other rivers has been accepted in the agreement.

Nowhere, in the agreement it is written that the dams

on the rivers will be constructed with the approval of the

provinces.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Pakistan's Water Accord
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:1632
Previous Article:Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan.
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