Water disputes can trigger unending row between provinces


ISLAMABAD: The upcoming meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) may take up a highly controversial summary seeking amendments in the Indus River System Authority Act 1992 that might open a Pandora’s box and trigger an “unending” row among the provinces. 
Age-old water conflicts among the provinces pertain to the distribution of water, its related infrastructure and theft, which can cause serious damage to country’s economy. Even the ongoing energy crisis being faced by the country for a long time is to some extent largely reasoned as an outcome of persistent water conflicts of the Centre and the provinces. 
Though the country had witnessed rule of both democratically elected governments and military-led regimes, it is no exaggeration to say none of them met with success in evolving consensus among the stakeholders. 
The ruling PML-N government is no exception in this regard, as so far it has preferred to keep mum towards finding amicable solutions to the demands of provinces and resolving pending water conflicts. But, a summary forwarded by the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to the CCI, seeking amendments to Section 8 (i) (f) of the IRSA Act 1992 from CCI and a direction to IRSA “to work out the compensation amount along with arrears to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province by other provinces on account of utilising its share of the water from the platform of CCI, is likely to stir a ‘tsunami’ of politics on political arena of the country in the days ahead especially among the provinces and centre”.
Raising its voice against the proposed amendments, the PML-N led provincial government of Punjab in its comments said it “needs no amendment” and also declared repugnant to the spirit of Water Accord of 1991. Irrigation Department of Punjab further made claims that the province has used much less water than its accorded allocations during both Kharif and Rabi seasons from the year 2001 to 2012-13. “As it would not be possible to determine the component of surplus water of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa share used by the other provinces,” said a copy of the official document signed by a director of theb Irrigation Department, Punjab.
Similarly, the PPP-led provincial government of Sindh in its comments on the said summary has questioned the authority of the CCI, saying, “The Council of Common Interests is not a authorised forum to amend any act, including the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) Act. The act was passed by the parliament.” Regarding compensation amount from the provinces, it states, “This cannot be recovered from other provinces in the name of compensation.”
“There is no provision of ‘compensation’ in the water Appointment Accord 1991. IRSA is not authorised to calculate/recover compensation thereof,” reads the document sent by the Irrigation Department of Sindh. The Sindh government also said, “The due share to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) for infrastructure should immediately be provided by the federal government, like other provinces.
Likewise, coalition-led Balochistan provincial government has called for making IRSA a powerful forum for resolving water conflicts of the provinces. “IRSA may be empowered to implement its decisions by the provinces,” said Balochistan. The province further says that since it is aggrieved due to the injudicious distribution of water resources; as such any legislation/amendments in IRSA Act that may secure the interests and water rights of the province would be supported for promulgation by this province. 
The Council of Common Interests (CCI) likely to meet during next week on May 29 under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and is likely to take up a summary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seeking endorsements/agreement of the highest forum to proposed amendments in Indus River System Authority Act 1992. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is of the stand that “as a result of lack of infrastructure Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is sustaining a loss of approximately 34 percent in the shape of less utilisation of its due share as per water accord 1991.”

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