Low river inflows createwater shortages for wheat crop

LAHORE: The falling inflows in River Jhelum, the country’s biggest reservoir, are likely to create water shortages for the current cash crop of wheat, officials said on Monday.

The inflow of River Jhelum, which originates from Indian Held Kashmir, dipped below 2,000 cusecs during the last couple of days, pointing to the alarming situation as far as meeting irrigation requirements of the country is concerned.

The recorded volume of Jhelum inflow was 1,917 cusecs and 2,043 cusecs respectively in the last two days (February 18 and 19, 2018) against average five times higher flows recorded in the last decade (2009-2017), a senior official of the Ministry of Water Resources has said.

The water inflow was recorded at 14,762 cusecs on February 19, 2017 whereas it was 11,718 cusecs on the corresponding day in 2016.

In fact, the average inflows during this time of year in the recorded history have been around 10,000 cusecs. The lowest recorded inflow of River Jhelum in the last decade on this day was 9,473 cusecs on February 19, 2014. With just 0.7 million acre feet (MAF) left in Tarbela and Mangla Dams, water managers are already in dire situation as far as meeting the irrigation requirements of the strategic standing wheat crop are concerned. “We have no water for meeting the last irrigation needs of wheat crop in central Pakistan,” an official said, who added that wheat was in an advanced stage in southern parts of the country, and may not face as much water shortage as other plantations upcountry. The overall shortage of water during Rabi 2018 may now be over 40 percent of the average flows against previous level of 36 percent. In November, the Indus River System Authority revised the water shortage upwards, and anticipated that provinces would face 36 percent shortage during Rabi season instead of the earlier forecast of 20 percent.

Both the major water reservoirs - Tarbela and Mangla - are likely to reach their dead level by the end of the current month. If the current flow pattern continues during the next week, the water reservoirs would likely touch the dead level by the end of the current month.

The officials also suspect building of Inflated Rubber Dam near Wullar Barrage on the River Jhelum in Kashmir as one of the reason hindering flow of water downstream, which they said was sheer violation of the Indus Waters Treaty.

According to a report, India is covertly building the Inflated Rubber Dam about four kilometres downstream of the Wullar Barrage in Held Kashmir, having an approximate storage capacity of 300,000 acre feet.

Inflated rubber is mounted on a permanent underwater embankment for holding back water to create a reservoir of a static level. Contrary to traditional dam construction techniques which require far more expertise and time, India can swiftly erect a strong but ‘handy’ structure to obstruct water flow through rubber dam technology.