Dry weather leads to record wa­ter short­age in 2017

Enterprise - - National news -

Pak­istan is head­ing to­wards an acute wa­ter short­age in the cur­rent crop­ping year, which may equate the short­fall ob­served dur­ing the se­vere drought of 1998-2002.

The an­tic­i­pated short­fall of 36.4 per­cent in river wa­ter in the cur­rent Rabi 2017-18 against av­er­age sys­tem uses may fur­ther soar to 40 per­cent by end of the sea­son. The crop­ping year is be­ing de­scribed as one of the dri­est years in the re­cent his­tory of the coun­try as far as wa­ter avail­abil­ity is con­cerned.

In 2001-02, wa­ter short­age was recorded at over 40 per­cent, mak­ing it the most wa­ter short year since es­tab­lish­ment of Indus River Sys­tem Author­ity (IRSA) in 1991.

One of the main rea­sons of low wa­ter avail­abil­ity for ir­ri­ga­tion pur­poses in 2017 has been in­ten­tional de­lay in fill­ing of Tar­bela Dam by the au­thor­i­ties, which re­sulted in in­ad­e­quate wa­ter in the reser­voirs for the lean pe­riod of Rabi.

Wapda sur­pris­ingly kept mum on de­layed fill­ing of Tar­bela Dam, even though sig­nif­i­cant vol­ume of wa­ter was avail­able for stor­ing in the dam dur­ing Kharif 2017. Ac­cord­ing to Wapda’s own fig­ures, 9.42 mil­lion acres feet (MAF) of wa­ter was al­lowed to es­cape be­low-Kotri Bar­rage into the sea dur­ing this year.

The im­pend­ing wa­ter cri­sis un­folded in re­cent months fol­low­ing re­peated re­views by the wa­ter watch­dog since September. In its ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee meet­ing held on September 29, 2017, IRSA while ap­prov­ing the wa­ter avail­abil­ity fore­cast for crop­ping sea­son Rabi 2017-18, an­tic­i­pated avail­abil­ity at 20 per­cent less than the av­er­age sys­tem uses.

How­ever, dur­ing the month of Oc­to­ber 2017, the ac­tual river flows were short of the an­tic­i­pated flows, re­quir­ing re­views of the ear­lier fore­cast afresh.

An ur­gent meet­ing of the IRSA ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee was held on Novem­ber 1, 2017 and the fore­cast of wa­ter avail­abil­ity was pegged at 36 per­cent short of av­er­age sys­tem uses in view of the ac­tual river flow trends.

The short­age of wa­ter may ad­versely af­fect pro­duc­tion of Rabi crops in­clud­ing wheat. The trick­le­down ef­fect of lin­ger­ing wa­ter short­age would also be seen in early Kharif 2018-19 in case of lesser rains in later months cou­pled with dwin­dling wa­ter flows.

Both Mangla and Tar­bela dams have just 1.79MAF of wa­ter right now. Th­ese reser­voirs are likely to touch dead lev­els in the next cou­ple of months, leav­ing sup­plies purely on run-of-the-river ba­sis, which will be quite low as com­pared to ris­ing de­mand in spring months.

This drought is ranked as the worst dur­ing the re­cent his­tory of the coun­try. An ex­tremely dev­as­tat­ing flood event was ob­served in 2010, which was termed a su­per flood of all time. Later, floods in 2012, 2013 and 2014 have also led to huge losses.

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