Despite disagreement with Sindh, the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has finally issued a No Objection Certificate to the Punjab government for establishing and constructing hydropower plant on Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal. This was also proposed in 2009 but resistance from the PPP-led federal government kept it away from the implementation phase.
The project remained suspended for nearly a decade but was recently taken up by the Punjab. It is no wonder that the decision has been issued with the collusion of the IRSA and Punjab’s water bureaucracy. It is also no wonder that water babus of the Punjab government have never paid heed to opposition from Sindh. The most unfortunate thing is that at the time of undertaking such decisions, unison between provinces and the federal government always gets neglected.
Sindh has been a victim of an unending history of injustice whenever it comes to getting due share of water from the Punjab. Sindh has also been bearing the harmful impact on its agriculture, ecosystem and its environment due to some vicious tactics of the Punjab, which includes giving less water than Sindh’s due share and spreading false information.
Sindh has been a victim of injustice whenever it comes to getting due share of water from the Punjab
If one visits the three tail-end districts of Sindh – Badin, Sujawal and Thatta – they will how people have been dwelling there in extremely harsh conditions. For a lot of time there is no water for humans, crops and animals and effects of climate change have made life more miserable for people in many villages of these three districts.
If the situation remains as it is, no one can imagine that how costly it would be.
Babus of the Punjab’s water bureaucracy have always been dealing with the matter as of regional interest, instead of seeing it in national interest. The recent event of issuing NOC to construct a hydropower plant on Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal is actually continuity of the same mind set. Firstly, everybody should understand the Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal is actually a flood canal which will not be used all year. It will only be used to draw off extra water during floods. The Punjab has never considered it as a flood canal and instead, it is continuously using it to irrigate lands in the province unlawfully.
If IRSA allows any entity to construct a power plant on the Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal, it surely means that it too provides that entity the guarantee/assurance that the canal will remain flowing on a permanent basis. The IRSA may say that it is not liable to provide water for the power plant but how important is this claim in history? After completing all formalities, a company establishes a costly power plant by investing billions of rupees and if doesn’t get the required amount of water, will it not be entitled to knock the doors of the court? In such a situation, who will restrict such a company from going court and demanding for lawful provision of permanent water for its costly power plant?
Sindh already has serious reservations regarding the division of water. Taking such controversial decisions may bring cracks between the unity of the federal government and the smaller provinces. When the IRSA is not going to take the responsibility regarding providing water to the power plant, then on what grounds does IRSA feel it is the right authority to issue an NOC for the power project? If the water for the power plant will not be taken from Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal, then what other source will there be from where the required water will be supplied to the power plant?
IRSA should not have to put itself in such a controversial position as these things are not even in its mandate. The issue should have to be taken to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) which is said to be its appropriate forum but the way IRSA has accepted and dealt with it after reducing the feasibility of 45MW project to 25MW, a fear exists that it may accept the request of providing water to the plant in future.
I think the federal government should immediately take notice of this controversial project. Moreover, federal government should strictly control the babus of the Punjab’s water bureaucracy.
The writer is a freelance contributor