Massive water shortages in Sukkur and Kotri barrages are leaving large agricultural lands across Sindh parched, with the cotton crop badly affected.
Officials from both barrages disclosed that Sukkur barrage has seen a 43 per cent shortage while Kotri is seeing 61pc thus far. The shortage refers to the gap between what they need to be getting at this time of year and what they are actually receiving.
On Friday, reported inflows into both barrages were 29,250 cusecs for Sukkur and 4,915 cusecs for Kotri.
Reports from four districts of Sindh — Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Sanghar and Tharparkar — paint a dire picture that has persisted for four months now, and is only getting worse.
These districts in the south east of the province are facing a drought-like situation after the Irrigation Department reduced water flows to 3,000 cusecs from 12,000 in the Nara Canal head. The water is currently being provided only for drinking.
But this meagre quantity was evaporating in sizzling temperatures coupled with reports of unbridled theft in Khairpur with the help of over 400 illegal heavy pumping machines, with the result that no water is reaching tail-end parts of the Nara canal command area including district Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and some parts of Tharparkar.
Inflows into Sukkur and Kotri barrages register massive shortfall
Wheat, sugarcane, vegetables, mango and banana orchards were adversely affected. Only 20 per cent of cotton crop was reportedly sowed in the tail-end areas.
Growers Khalid Arain, Khuda Bux Leghari and Nadim Bhurgari told Dawn that sub-divisions of tail-end areas including Kot Ghulam Muhammad, Jhuddo, Naokot, Digri, Samaro, Kunri, are badly hit, adding that these areas were not being supplied water for irrigation for the last four months. Some of these growers report that the cotton seeds they had sown recently had been destroyed because water did not arrive when it was most needed.
“Our crops are destroyed and even cattle and livestock are not getting water for drinking,” they lamented.
Tail Abadgars Association Nara Canal President Muhammad Yousuf Rajput said the irrigation water system has been destroyed due to corruption of irrigation department officers.
He said persistent theft causes less water to reach to the tail-end areas.
“The irrigation officials are serving the interests of influential landlords instead of supplying water on equality basis,” he slammed.
An irrigation department official, requesting anonymity, told Dawn that there was shortage in Sukkur barrage and now the situation is improving because 9,400 cusecs are being supplied to Nara canal against requirement of 16,000 cusec.
The official feared that cotton and chilli sowing will be reduced to half this season over the last year due to severe irrigation water shortages in these areas.
A landlord from the tail-end areas said that if water stealing is stopped and a judicious supply ensured then cotton and chilli crops can be sowed on 80pc cultivable areas.