Indus Water: Facing Heat At Home, Pak Looks To Pin Blame Outside14 March 2010
The Indian Express
New Delhi: With Pakistan raising the river water sharing issue during the Foreign Secretary level talks over a fortnight ago, officials here are trying to get to the bottom of the reason behind Islamabadís move as New Delhi awaits the visit of the Pakistani Indus Water Commissioner later this month. The visit follows the trip made by the Indian Indus Water Commissioner to Pakistan early February ahead of the Foreign Secretary level talks. The issue was discussed between them at the meeting of Permanent Indus Commission, comprising both Commissioners. While both Commissioners pored over the technical details of water flow of the trans-boundary Indus river basin during the meeting, Pakistanís domestic water-sharing issues appear to be the driving force behind Islamabadís move to make it a bilateral issue. Though the water-sharing issues have been a bone of contention within Pakistan since the beginning, the below normal monsoon last year - its third lowest in the last decade - heightened the inter-province rivalry over water-sharing. Media reports from Pakistani give an insight into how the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan have been at loggerheads recently over the sharing of Indus basin waters since the deficit monsoon last year. In fact, the division among the provinces became obvious during the recent meetings of the Indus River System Authority, established in the early 1990s after Nawaz Sharif brokered a water-sharing treaty. While Sindh and Baluchistan representatives have started questioning the statistics of water flowing to them during the ongoing Rabi crop, the upper riparian Punjab has been demanding more water from Indus. Sindh has been countering Punjabís demand for more water, claiming that it was losing about one million acre feet (MAF) water every year. In fact, given the huge irrigation water usage in Punjab, both Baluchistan and Sindh have raised the ante, asking it to stop the Chashma-Jhelum link and close Taunsa Pinjad canal. Both states feel Punjab has been withdrawing unauthorised water through these channels, depriving them of their share. Sindh even claims Punjab had constructed over a dozen barrages and two dams and two canals forcibly, which consume about 22,000 cusec of Sindhís water. Punjab, in return, has been flaunting IRSA water statistics regarding water availability to present its case for drawing Indus water through Chashma-Jhelum link despite objections from its rival provinces. It has also used the standing Rabi crop as a reason to withdraw more water from the Indus basin this year. While IRSA allocated more water to Punjab during the Rabi sowing season, both Sindh and Baluchistan have now started opposing any additional water demand by Punjab and are also asking Punjab to compensate for about 40,000 acre feet additional water during the sowing season. With the dispute intensifying, Pakistan has raised the issue to a new bilateral level, accusing India of foul play while India remains committed to the Indus Water Treaty of 1960.