Sindh: Water Issues between Sindh and Punjab
Below is an open letter published by Sindh Development Fund:
Dear Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Saheb,
We the members of Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF), a Sindh based political think tank comprised of intellectuals, educationists, thinkers, economists, writers, professionals and concern citizens extend our support and compliments to you for your struggle for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
During the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf your party came closer to the civil society and people of Sindh due to its support to Sindh’s struggle against the authoritarian and anti-Sindh decisions of a military ruler. Your clear stand and struggle on the issues on NFC, water and provincial autonomy was seen with respect and high admiration and was widely accepted by the peoples of Pakistan, especially those of the smaller provinces including Sindh. These political and economic issues between two important federating units of Pakistan were used as weapon of ‘divide and rule’ by the military and dictatorial regimes.
When you joined Anti Greater Thal Canal and Anti Kalabagh Dam Committee (a committee comprised of Pakistan’ leading federal and nationalist parties including the parties of ARD, APDM and MMA alliances) and later your singing of Charter of Democracy (CoD), people of Sindh gave you great response to stand for the rights and just cause of Sindh.
When after 2008 general election your party emerged as leading party in Punjab and made the government, we were expecting the implementation of the commitments made by you during your last opposition time. The acceptance of multiple criteria for NFC by the Punjab government gave a new trust to the people of Sindh that your party is serious to strengthen democratic culture in Pakistan by recognizing the legal and constitutional demands of Sindh and other provinces.
But unfortunately the recent moves of your party’s government in Punjab on the issue of water distribution between Sindh and Punjab are seen as against your already made commitments to resolve the issues of confrontation with mutual trust and just decisions.
The recent move of illegal opening of Chashma Jhelum link canal allied by setting up power plant, from Punjab, strongly supported by PMLN, has given a shock to the people of Sindh. This has resulted in diminution of PMLN credibility and integrity among the masses of Sindh for which water has been a matter of life and death for decades.
Dear Mian Saheb, before we inform you about the facts regarding the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional operation CJ Link Canal and Power plant project, I would like to inform you about some facts which will let u understand the technical, moral, environmental and political dimensions of the water case of Sindh.
The natural geo-agricultural pattern has made in such a way that the Chenab meets the Jhelum near Trimmu, the Ravi meets the Jhelum downwards, and the Sutlej meets the Jhelum at Panjnad, and still down, the combination of these rivers meets the Indus at Mithankot. Then the Indus flows down into Sindh. There are three barrages in Sindh while all other waterworks are upcountry. Another fact is that in Punjab’s all rivers and waterworks are interconnected by channels and links as under:
C-J link (Chashma-Jhelum link) connects the Indus at Chashma with the Jhelum above Trimmu. U-J-C link (upper Jhelum Chenab Link) connects the Jhelum from Mangla to the Chenab above Khanki headworks. R-Q link (Rasul-Qadirabad link) connects the Jhelum at Rasul with the Chenab at the Qadirabad barrage. M-R link (Marala-Ravi link) connects the Chenab at Marala with the Ravi at Shahdara). Q-B link (Qadirabad-Balloki link) connects the Chenab at Qadirabad with the Ravi at Balloki. T-S link (Trimmu-Sidnai link) connects the Jhelum at Trimmu with the Ravi at Sidnai. S-M link (Sidnai-Malsi link) connects the Ravi at Sidnai with Malsi that passes through the Sutlej. The BRBD link is about a 100-mile-long channel from a branch of Marala across the Ravi towards the Sutlej. B-S I & II (Balloki-Sulemanki) are two links which connect the Ravi at Balloki with the Sutlej at Sulemanki.
These waterworks, links and connecting channels form a network of water systems through which deficiency of water in one can be met by another. Thus, the entire Punjab has an effective water system for its agriculture and other purposes. The policy of government of Punjab to control water flows and forcibly opening of flood canals like TP and CJ and erecting power plant on CJ has triggered a movement in Sindh which is likely to affect PMLNs political say and credibility in Sindh.
We would like to bring some more facts to your attention. As you know, this year the Indus flow is expected to be the worst in the last five years, causing serious problems for the coming Kharif crop in Sindh. As of June, Sindh will suffer 54 per cent shortage as compared to 14 per cent by Punjab. For this reason alone, Sindh feels justified in pleading for closing the Chashma-Jhelum flood canal, Taunsa-Panjnad flood canal, Panjnad link canal and Thal canal, which flow from the Indus. This will help to reduce Sindh's problem because the crop season in the province begins earlier.
Owing to an abnormal fall in the flow of the Indus it is justified to demand that guidelines and major principles of recommendations of A.N.G. Abassi, head of the Technical Committee on Water Resources (TCWR), should be followed for operational criterion of Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad canals. The report says: "The lower Punjab tributary areas linked to the Indus through the Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad links cannot be treated as a permanent burden on the Indus main. The link canals are inter-provincial canals and should be regulated as such."
Instead of regulating these canals on the basis of the indent of one province, the Indus River System Authority should operate them on the basis of equitable distribution under the water accord on an all-Pakistan basis. The recent construction of a 44 megawatt hydropower project on the Chashma-Jhelum flood canal, on the plea of power generation, would convert the non-perennial canal into a perennial one to irrigate lands in Khushab, Bakhar and Layyah districts and 2.1m acres of Cholistan. This floodwater is now being diverted to irrigate Punjab districts through link canals which used to flow below Kotri, sustaining mangrove forests from Karachi to Kutch and the livelihood of millions of fishermen and farmers. At least two districts below Kotri have now burned barren.
This would intensify desertification in Sindh, ruining its agricultural economy and rendering a fatal blow to Tando Mohammed Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Matiari and Hyderabad districts after destruction of deltaic districts of Thatta and Badin. It is unjust that four arid districts of Punjab should be irrigated at the cost of six fertile districts of Sindh. Punjab is undertaking powerhouse construction, though Sindh rejected the project on June 20, 2009 terming it unfeasible.
IRSA had termed the NEPRA license for the project non-feasible. The country is faced with a water crisis. Sindh is getting 40 per cent less than its due share. Any construction of a power-generation plant by Punjab on a flood canal would further deepen Sindh's sense of deprivation. The resolution by the Punjab Assembly in favour of power plant is an alarming message for Sindh. We appeal to you and your coalition partners in Punjab to refrain from creating confrontation between the two provinces. The Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Panjnad link canals and Greater Thal Canal, which were constructed only to be streamlined during floods, are being operated as regular canals. Punjab is planning to make the Chashma-Jhelum canal perennial on the plea of operating hydro-power project. The Chashma-Jhelum canal continues to carry 22,000 cusecs and Taunsa-Panjnad canal 12,000 cusecs. This means Sindh is losing 34,000 cusecs of water.
Now we would like to inform your goodself that after Indus basin Treaty, in which a dictator has unilaterally decided to sell out three rivers to India, all the development of dams, reservoirs and structures were built at the expense of all provinces including East Pakistan. So the entire Pakistan has legitimate share in these systems. There is a clear mention in all water related documents that CJ and TP will be built provided the funds are available and for enabling devises. Mangla as specifically built to take care of those areas, which were deprived of water after the sale of Ravi, Sutlej and bias rivers to India.
We can quote many international laws, obligations and commitments which show that in multistate water courses the entire water should be part of the system including river and rechargeable water. In this case the underground water of Punjab is also a property of all the provinces and especially of downstream Sindh. Same international treaties and laws suggest that a certain amount of water is a must for deltaic aquifers including mangroves and fisheries.
There are countries where there are no rivers and no dams. Yet they generate substantial electricity. There are several other sources of power, including coal and thermal power plants, solar power generation and windmill power generation plants. Hence the recent decisions by the Punjab government of Punjab should be in no way a necessity for power generation at the cost of creating conflict among the federating units of Pakistan.
We feel that it has become PML(N) responsibility to ensure Punjab to withdraw its projects, ensure release of at least 10 to 35 MAF water downstream Kotri and ask Punjab to withdraw and shun all such projects which are likely to have negative impact on the future political relationship of Sindh and Punjab and future of a viable federation.
Dear Mian Saheb, Sindh appreciate your stand for the rights of the people but now you have government in Punjab and there is a feel in Sindh that you are not practically doing which you used to talk in your political rallies and press conference. Today you have a golden opportunity to resolve this issue so that we shall trust your words. We may say that the mainstreaming of true and democratic political spirit and culture is the only solutions to get the right track to endorse the real concerns and legitimate demands of the smaller provinces and nations including Sindh.
With Profound Regards
The entire team of SDF
Zulfiqar Halepoto (convener)
Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo
Professor Aijaz Qureshi
Professor Mushtaq Mirani
Dr Rajab Memon
Dr Nazir Shaikh
M Aslam Balouch
Syed Shafiq Shah
Professor Saeeda Bashir Chandio