ACCORDING to a report (Dec 6), the government intends “to introduce new water operating rules, to give priority to use of additional storages for hydropower production over the historic principle of ‘water for agriculture’ and encourage low water-consuming provinces to sell their unutilised shares to needy provinces. Under this new approach, the two larger provinces could bring into their use the unutilised shares of the smaller provinces against a system of payment and compensation to be developed through political and technical negotiations.”
Para 6 of the Water Accord 1991 recognises the need for future storages on the Indus and other rivers for agricultural development, Para 4 fixes the distribution formula of additional storages and Para 14c specifies the operation of the existing reservoirs with priority for the irrigation uses of the provinces.
The water from the additional storages is to be distributed among the provinces in the ratio of Punjab 37 per cent, Sindh 37 per cent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 14 per cent and Balochistan 12 per cent.
There are barren areas in all the provinces which need to be irrigated from this water. Rights of one water-deficit area cannot be sold to another.
Money cannot substitute the development of a backward area in the fields of employment, industries, food production, standard of living, health, education etc., which could follow the irrigated agriculture In case of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, water from additional storages is the right of the people of D.I. Khan where vast tracts of culturable land are lying barren and it should not be sold at any cost.
I would like to remind the readers that under the Indus Water Treaty 33 million acre feet of total annual flow of three eastern rivers was ceded to India in lieu of compensation, permanently depriving Pakistan of 9 MAF of water being utilised in
Pakistan, to which it was entitled under the international law.
This perennial loss of water right outweighs all the compensation Pakistan could get and deprived the lands which could be developed from the water of western rivers of their water rights to the extent of water transferred to the command area under eastern rivers.
The logical way for the Indus Water Treaty would have been to retain the rights of nine MAF and transfer the balance 24 MAF to India. The mistake should not be repeated.