WATER SHORTAGE DILEMMA 

Increase risk of growing major crops in Sindh

By Dr. SHAMSUDDIN TUNIO
Associate Professor
Department of Agronomy
Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam.
June 17 - 23, 2002

Sindh is ecologically arid climatic region of Pakistan, which absolutely rely on irrigation water due to scarcity of rains and saline underground water. It is the second agricultural important province of Pakistan from area under major crops and production potential of crops grown in a central irrigated fertile tract, which include upper, central and lower Sindh crop zones.

The province is situated in the southern part of the country, which has draw back of tail users of Indus water for irrigation purposes. There is world law and Islamic theology that tail-users have first right on river water. But, it does not operate in this country?

The water dispute had prolonged in between front users and tail users of river water in Pakistan. The natural flow of Indus had brought prosperity in Sindh. Indus river was the main source of water, which had remained national heritage of Sindh through pre-historic times. But, socio-political as well socio-economic changes in the sub-continent had been reasons for sequeesed of water resources. The dams and barrages restricted the natural flow of this "Lion strong river" from top to bottom, the upstream and down stream flow at deltaic province is a joke with its inhabitants.

The flow in Indus river may increase due to rains in the north of country, sometimes it results in floods. Since 1995s, there have been no rains which cause floods in the region. If there is any shortage of water for irrigation purposes it must be shared equally by all four provinces of Pakistan including Punjab. But, here water shortage is in the fortune of Sindh Province. The front users of Indus water have established infrastructure such as Dams, Reservoirs, Barrages and Canals on upstream flow of Indus, to control Indus water by diverting its flow into their plains and plateaus.

The water shortage dilemma is recent development of early 70s, after built up of dams and barrages on the upper stream of the Indus river. Dam like Tarbella and barrages such as Taunsa and Chashma on Indus have widened the dispute and dilemma of water distribution and increased doubts of rights of tail users, especially Sindh.

The decrease of flow in Indus river is the sign of devastation and dieing Indus Agriculture. The traces of such disaster may be seen in Sindh, which is deltaic province. The decrease of area under crops, die back of fruit plants, and destruction, of riverine forests, drying up of fresh water lakes, especially Manchhar lake, intrusion of sea into fertile lands and increase of salts in the cultivated lands, increase in erosion and degradation of soils and destruction of natural vegetation are common features now days in Sindh.

The sign of injustice exists by means of lower water flow in the Indus and its Canals at different barrages of Sindh, which looked dry and deserted most of the time in the-year. This tragedy is continue from last five to six years. It has shown uncertainty among the growers. The crop production is expensive, laborious and risky job, due to high cost inputs (such as seed, fertilizer and pesticides), low Market price, Agriculture tax and also water shortage have multiplied farmers doubts whether crops may be grown or not!.

The decline in water share in each cropping season may multiply the dilemma and jeoporidise the future of major crops in Sindh, resulting in imbalance of provincial economy. The declining of crop area in Sindh is main cause of improper water share every year through Indus River system Authority (IRSA). The water resources of Pakistan goes upto 140 MAF, which include river water, underground water and rain water.

Table- 1. The water share both for Sindh and Punjab provinces

Water resource

Sindh

Punjab

River water

48.76 MAF

55.94 MAF

Underground

3.07 MAF

62.07 MAF

Rain water

1.41 MAF

22.18 MAF

Total water

53.24 MAF

140.24 MAF

Sindh has three crop zones, which pondered on Indus water received at its three barrages in the upper, middle and lower parts.

The upper Sindh crop zone, its north western part on right bank of Indus is rice growing area, which is irrigated by Sukkur barrage left bank canals like Rice canal, Dadu canal and Khirthar canal. The North eastern part on left bank of Indus is cotton-wheat zone, which is irrigated by Ghotki feeder canal.

The central part of Sindh on left bank of Indus has remained absolute cotton-wheat zone, which is irrigated by Sukkur barrage canals including Rohri canal, Nara canal, and Khairpur feeders. Sugarcane has vast coverage in different parts of central crop zones.

The lower part of Sindh such as Hyderabad, Badin and Thatta is irrigated by Kotri barrage canals like Phulleli, Lined channel and Pinyari canals. This area has remained rice growing zone. But, Sugarcane and Banana are grown on vast area of this zone. Sunflower cover large area as potential non-traditional edible oilseed crop in the lower part of Sindh.

The severe water shortage in Sindh, due to unknown reasons has put down the economy of province at risk and increased the problems of the growers in terms of late crop sowing and poor production. This province is in short of water share for growing crops in both kharif and rabi seasons and area under drops is rapidly declining every year. Whereas other province has meager water shortage issue to be resolved.

Sindh province has its water share of 33.94 MAF in kharif and 14.82 MAF in Rabi season (Table-2). The amazing situation is that the water shortage has been destiny of people of Sindh while others are not sharing in shortage of water. They should have maintained status quo for the closure of Chasma-Jehlum link canal and Taunsa link canal, which are flood canals but are running as perennial canals.

Table-2: The season wise water share for growing crops in both provinces as shown into 1991 accord.

Province

Kharif water

Rabi water

Total

share (MAF)

share (MAF)

   

Shindh

33.94

14.82

48.76

Punjab

37.07

18.87

55.94

NWFP

05.18

03.50

08.68

Balochistan

02.85

01.02

03.87

Total

77.34

37.01

114.38

The climate of Sindh has peculiarity in crop growing season, which starts earlier as compared to rest of the provinces of Pakistan. Thus, early rabi and kharif season needs proper share of water for sowing variety of crops in the province. In Sindh Province of Pakistan, crops share a lot in the economy of the country in terms of food and industrial products (Table-3).

Table- 3: The province of Sindh shares a lot in GDP, which is producing Agricultural resources like crops, fish and livestock. the agriculture resources share is presented as under.

Name of Resource

% share in GDP

Wheat

15

Rice

42

Sugarcane

31

Cotton

23

Marine fish

57

Livestock

28

The crops include cereals or food-grains, (eg: wheat and rice), pulses, and oilseeds, which have human food value at national level. The cash or industrial crops such as cotton and sugarcane, which have sound economic role in Gross National Production (GNP). This province shared 2.3m bales of cotton, 2.0 m tonnes of wheat and 2.123m tonnes rice and 1.153m tonnes cane in the national economy. The textile and sugar are major produce that Sindh contribute every year.

Sindh produce oilseeds which include both traditional and non-traditional oilseed crops. Rape seed, Mustard and Sesame have many traditional uses whereas soybean, sunflower, safflower, Ground nuts, linseed, castor etc. as oilseeds have industrial uses in making vegetable oil or ghee as well as medicines. The pulses grown in Sindh province, include gram, Field, Peas, lentil, Mungbean, Mash bean, Cow Peas etc, which are high proteinous food for human beings. The cultivation of such minor crops also need due share of water during their season of growth either in Rabi or kharif seasons.

The different groups of vegetables whether root and tuber vegetables, leafy vegetables, flower vegetables, immature pod vegetables, ripe fruit vegetables or any kind of vegetables grown for food and spice purposes are grown as Rabi and Kharif vegetables in Sindh. The fruit orchards are widely distributed throughout the province, especially Mango, Banana, Guava, Jujube, Date Palm, papaya, lemon etc are grown on vast area in Sindh, which again need proper share of water every year. Moreover, Sindh shares much in the export of such valuable fruits in the national economy.

Constraints:

1. The schematic construction of dams on upstream flow of Indus river.

2. Lack of implementation of 1991 water accord.

3. Lack of establishing water reservoirs in Sindh province.

4. Lack of Maintenance of flow at three barrages of Sindh.

5. Monopoly of front users on Indus water by endangering matters of National interest.

6. Build up of so-called flood canals including Chasma- Jehlum link canal and Thal flood canal in upstream zones of central Indus plain rather downstream zones.

7. Illegal control over Indus water system by Punjab and defying - 1991 water accord.

8. Fake figures of water share produced by WAPDA and Punjab water council.

9. The conflict over sharing of severe water shortages by all provinces.

10. Repair and Renovation of irrigation system of Sindh, including barrages, canals and water courses to avoid water losses.

11. Complete closure of downstream flow of Kotri barrage, which create environmental problems and intrusion of sea water into fertile lands.

Recommendations:

1. The proposals of constructing Mega dams such as Kalabagh Dam, Thal Canal and Thal Dam should be abandoned.

2. The fertile lands of Sindh should not be "Sacrifice goat" to cultivate desert lands of Thal.

3. Apportionment of water should be based on 1991 water accord. The decline in crop areas in Sindh due to severe water shortage must be maintained.

4. Downstream flow of 10 MAF should be maintained beyond, Kotri barrage, according to 1991 water accord. Water shortage if any should be shared by all four provinces of Pakistan.

5. Reasons of water shortage in Sindh during Kharif and Rabi may be sorted out. Why always water shortage in Sindh?

6. The national consensus should be developed in water sharing, apportionment and water shortages by taking provinces in confidence, not by forcibly.

7. The reservations, objections and misconceptions of Sindh people must be heard open heartedly by taking Sindh into confidence in the matters of national interest by virtual decisions.

8. WAPDA, Federal and Punjab Governments should change their attitude and honour the rights of other provinces.

9. Federal Government should send a team of some personnels from WAPDA, Punjab Irrigation Department" Growers and Punjab water council to visit different areas and make observations on water shortage in Sindh.