For Pakistan’s Sindh, drying up of second largest reservoir both a blessing and curse

A local fills a water bucket near the Chotiari water reservoir in Sindh's Sanghar district, Pakistan, on September 19, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 27 September 2021

For Pakistan’s Sindh, drying up of second largest reservoir both a blessing and curse

  • Chotiari reservoir, which irrigates 290,000 acres of land in Sanghar and Umerkot districts, is touching “almost dead level”
  • Some landlords say reduction in water level is blessing as water from reservoir has caused waterlogging and soil salinity in surroundings

SANGHAR: The Chotiari water reservoir, the second largest water storage facility in Pakistan’s Sindh province, is facing acute shortages and touched an “almost dead level” due to low monsoon rains this year, a senior Sindh irrigation official said on Friday.

While the development has been widely seen as a threat to the availability of drinking and irrigation water in the southern province, experts as well as some farmers described it as a blessing, saying the artificial lake had caused major waterlogging and soil salinity in its surroundings and thus destroyed agricultural land.

The Chotiari reservoir is situated on the edge of Pakistan’s Achhro Thar, or white desert, in Sanghar district bordering India. Historically, the Chotiari was a complex of deep lakes and riverine Makhi forests. It was turned into a reservoir in 2002.




A view of the gates of the Chotiari water reservoir in Sindh's Sanghar district, Pakistan, on September 19, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Lake Manchar, the largest natural freshwater lake in Pakistan, which is in Sindh’s Dadu and Jamshoro districts, has remained empty for over two decades, making the Chotiari reservoir, with a storage capacity of 0.71 million acre feet, a major source of drinking and irrigation water in the region.

Today, the water body is nearing an “almost dead level,” said Mansoor Memon, the Chotiari reservoir project director from the Sindh Irrigation Department. 

If upper parts of the country did not receive enough rains in the ongoing monsoon season, he warned, water shortage in command areas of the reservoir could increase by up to 30 percent.

Already, the cultivation of kharif crops — planted February onwards and harvested till September — in the Chotiari reservoir command area has been reduced to half by the season ending September-end. And if rain patterns remain the same, the upcoming rabi, or spring harvest, will also see dangerously low crop yields, raising fears of food insecurity given that wheat is a major rabi crop.




An empty boat at the Chotiari water reservoir in Sindh's Sanghar district, Pakistan, on September 19, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“Prior to monsoon rains, it [water level in the reservoir] had reduced to 5 feet, touching almost dead-level,” Memon told Arab News, saying it was currently at 8 feet.

“If rainfall occurs as per forecast, we will touch the 15-feet level by November, which we call comfort level,” the official explained, saying if there were not enough rains and water continued to be supplied to the reservoir at existing levels from the Indus river, “we would face 30 percent water shortage in command areas in just the rabi season.”

The reservoir is filled through the Nara canal, the longest canal in Pakistan, which runs for about 364 kilometers, and irrigates 290,000 acres of land in the Sanghar and Umerkot desert districts. It fills up during the kharif season that falls between April and September.

However, fresh satellite and classified images obtained from the Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam (SAUT) show that 83 percent of the reservoir is empty.




Landlord Abdul Khaliq Junejo poses with his sesame crop in the surrounding area of the Chotiari water reservoir in Sindh's Sanghar district, Pakistan, on September 17, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“On the basis of classified images, we can say that on September 09, 2021, 93 percent of the Chotiari reservoir area was empty,” Prof Dr. Altaf Ali Siyal, an SAUT director for research, innovation and commercialization, told Arab News.

“With the arrival of water in the River Indus because of the monsoon, the situation improved slightly on September 18, 2021 and Chotiari was 83 percent empty. In the command area, Chotiari water is useful especially during rabi that starts from October or so,” he said, predicting severe water shortage in the reservoir’s lower Nara Canal command area in the upcoming rabi season.

Hajji Muhammad Shafi Palli, a 55-year-old grower from Umerkot district’s Kunri area, said he had cultivated cotton, pearl millet and sesame in the outgoing Kharif season, but his yield was half of the usual average produce.

His 40 acres (16 hectares) of agriculture land is fed through the Chotiari reservoir tributaries, covering around 150 kilometers. Palli and other growers in the area have already received an advisory from authorities for the upcoming rabi season starting October, with warnings to limit cropping area depending on water availability in the Chotiari reservoir and the volume of rain in the River Indus catchment area.

“After advisory, I fear that I may have to limit wheat production to four acres (1.6 hectares) as compared to my last year’s 20 acres of cultivation area,” Palli told Arab News. “Similarly, I would have to reduce other crops like mustard.”

But some are happy the reservoir is drying up.

Abdul Khaliq Junejo, 60, who owns 25 acres of agricultural land adjacent to the Chotiari reservoir, said a reduction in its water level was a blessing since water from the reservoir had been causing major waterlogging in its surroundings.




A boat is anchored in front of the Bakar Lake Resort at the Chotiari water reservoir in Sindh's Sanghar district, Pakistan, on September 19, 2021. (AN photo by Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

Indeed, a 2019 study by the University of Nevada, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Pakistan’s Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Jamshoro said the Chotiari reservoir had caused major water logging, soil salinity and negative vegetation in the adjacent areas of the structure.

“I was able to cultivate a sesame crop this year after a gap of three years as the water level went low,” Junejo said.

According to Junejo and other growers, at the time of the reservoir’s construction, authorities promised to ensure the extraction of seepage water through tube wells and pumping stations, but these promises are yet to be fulfilled.

“Not a single tube well is working and there is no arrangement of seepage water management,” Junejo said. “As a result, there is hardly one crop all year, which has resulted in mass unemployment. Most locals have been forced to stop cultivating their own lands and migrate to other areas to work on others’ lands.”

Chotiari reservoir project director Memon acknowledged the complaints.

“Reduction of water in the Chotiari reservoir also means a blessing in disguise for the surrounding areas,” he said. “There is a scheme of 100 tube wells for the associated work of Chotiari reservoir seepage water extraction, but all tube wells are not functional because of electricity-related issues.”


Pakistani, Iranian FMs discuss Afghanistan, call for ‘close coordination’ among regional countries

Updated 8 sec ago

Pakistani, Iranian FMs discuss Afghanistan, call for ‘close coordination’ among regional countries

  • The Pakistani foreign minister says sustained international engagement is essential to address the situation in Afghanistan
  • The Iranian FM says Tehran fully supports Pakistan’s initiative for a regional approach on the war-battered country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized “close coordination” among Afghanistan’s neighboring states to ensure greater peace and stability in the region during a phone call with his Iranian counterpart on Tuesday.
According to the foreign office of Pakistan, Qureshi received a call from the Iranian foreign minister Dr. Hossein Amir Abdollahian who invited the Pakistan to participate in the second ministerial meeting of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan which is scheduled to be held in Tehran next week.
The Iranian official discussed the overall regional security situation during the conversation while pointing out that Tehran fully supported Pakistan’s initiative for a regional approach on Afghanistan.
“Foreign Minister Qureshi thanked his Iranian counterpart for the invitation and expressed the hope that the meeting would impart further impetus to the regional approach on the situation in Afghanistan,” the foreign office said in a statement. “He emphasized that close coordination was essential to help Afghanistan on path to peace, stability and development.”
Qureshi emphasized that sustained international engagement was essential in view of the evolving economic situation in Afghanistan.
“He expressed the hope that international community would ramp up provision of humanitarian assistance on urgent basis, in view of the upcoming winter season, and take steps to ensure economic stability in the country,” the statement added.
The first ministerial meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries was held in September after Pakistan urged China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to come together and discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
The ministerial meeting was also preceded by a virtual meeting of the special representatives and envoys of the six neighboring states for Afghanistan.


Pakistani Twitter users document Mawlid Al-Nabi celebrations on microblogging platform

Updated 19 min 38 sec ago

Pakistani Twitter users document Mawlid Al-Nabi celebrations on microblogging platform

  • The nation observed the Prophet’s birth anniversary with religious zeal on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awwal
  • Several Pakistani social media users shared photos of the country’s bright decor to mark the occasion

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan on Tuesday celebrated Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), with cities around the country lit up with beautiful colors.
The day began with 31-gun salute in the federal capital, Islamabad, and 21-gun salute across the provincial capitals.
The Prophet’s birth anniversary is observed with great religious zeal on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar.
However, Prime Minister Imran Khan requested the nation to celebrate the occasion this year like “never before” in a video message shared across his official social media accounts on October 16, 2021.

President Arif Alvi also maintained it was imperative for Muslims to follow the example of the Prophet (PBUH) since it was “the key to their success” in this world and the hereafter.
“The only solution to all the challenges facing the Muslim ummah, including anarchy, hypocrisy, oppression and injustice, can be found in the life of the Prophet (PBUH),” he said.


Australia’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Geoffrey Shaw shared on his official Twitter account that his local friends had sent him sweet rice, a traditional dish people serve while observing Mawlid Al-Nabi.

The country’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party shared a shot of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence decked out to mark the occasion.



A Twitter user from Rawalpindi shared a number of images, showing bright lights in mosques, market and alleyways.
 


Journalist Ali Tanoli shared images of Islamabad from the night before, showing landmarks like Faisal Mosque and Bari Imam lit up.

Twitter user Syed Hashir Shah shared photos of lights hanging above bustling markets in Karachi, Pakistan.



Journalist Waseem Abbasi posted the photo of Pakistan’s largest Rabi Al-Awwal cake ordered by the authorities in the federal capital on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.



Discover Pakistan TV, the country’s first tourism-dedicated outlet, also shared colorful shots from across the country.


 


PM Khan promises rule of law as nation celebrates Mawlid Al-Nabi

Updated 19 October 2021

PM Khan promises rule of law as nation celebrates Mawlid Al-Nabi

  • The prime minister says a welfare state looks after its people irrespective of their social status
  • President Arif Alvi emphasizes the need to promote unity among Muslims by following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday his government wanted to establish the rule of law in the country by following the principles established by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which required a state to hold its powerful citizens accountable for their misdeeds as well.
Khan made the comment while addressing a national conference in Islamabad as people across the country celebrated Mawlid Al-Nabi – or the birth anniversary of the Prophet (PBUH) – with traditional religious fervor.
The Prophet’s birth anniversary is observed on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar, by Muslims all over the world.
The prime minister emphasized in his speech no society could progress without maintaining equal standards of justice for everyone.
“The central pillars of the State of Madinah established by our Prophet (PBUH) were morality and rule of law,” he noted. “A welfare state always looks after its people irrespective of their status. We will have to make the powerful abide by the laws of this country. Otherwise, we will not be able to fix the system.”
He said a leader should be honest and trustworthy, adding that the two qualities were also quite prominent in the Prophet’s own personality.
Khan reiterated he was striving to implement in his country the political ideals that were central to the State of Madinah.
“I will keep on fighting for the rule of law in the country until my last breath,” he continued. “We have to bring the powerful within the ambit of the rule of law.”
The prime minister said his government had formed a special authority to apprise the people about the life and teachings of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH).
“Children have access to all types of information through mobile phones these days,” he said. “The challenge is to show them the right path and direction. The newly established authority will provide guidance to our youth by showing them different aspects of the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”
He added the objective of setting up an Islamic welfare state that followed the principles of the State of Madinah had been there in his party’s manifesto for 25 years.
“Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave women right to property which they did not have it before,” he said. “The State of Madinah also introduced the concept of providing pension to older people.”
Earlier, while addressing the first session of the conference, President Dr. Arif Alvi emphasized the need for promoting unity among Muslims in the light of the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH).
“The last Prophet preached not to spread discord and said that Muslims were united like a single body,” Alvi said, adding that the revolution that emerged from the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah had truly transformed the world.
“I have a firm belief that change in Pakistan and the Muslim world will once again come from the mosque which holds special significance in the character building of a nation,” he maintained.
A special documentary on the life of the Prophet (PBUH) was also screened at the conference.


Pakistan navy says ‘blocked’ Indian submarine from entering its waters last week

Updated 19 October 2021

Pakistan navy says ‘blocked’ Indian submarine from entering its waters last week

  • The Indian submarine was detected on October 16, Pakistan navy said in a press release
  • Says this was third such incident in recent years, reflects Pakistan’s resolve to defend maritime frontiers 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani navy detected an Indian submarine off the Pakistani coast and prevented it from entering its waters last week, it said on Tuesday.
The submarine was detected on October 16, the navy said in a press release.
“During the prevailing security milieu, a strict monitoring watch has been kept by Pakistan Navy to safeguard maritime frontiers of Pakistan,” the navy said. “It is the third incident of its kind wherein, an Indian Naval Submarine has been prematurely detected and tracked by PN Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft.”

Aerial image captured by a Pakistani military patrol aircraft on October 16, 2021 of Indian submarine attempting to enter Pakistani waters  - ISPR (Pakistan Army) 

The recent incident was an example, the navy said, of Pakistan’s resolve “to defend maritime frontiers of the Motherland.”

Relations between longtime rivals Pakistan and India have been particularly strained in the last two years, particularly since 2019 when India withdrew Indian-administered Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over the territory, sparking outrage in Pakistan, the downgrading of diplomatic ties and a suspension of bilateral trade.
Kashmir lies at the heart of the tension. The countries, who both claim it in full but rule it in part, have fought two of their three wars over the region since partition and independence from Britain in 1947.

 


We need to create ‘cricketing bond’ with India, keep politics separate — PCB chairman 

Updated 19 October 2021

We need to create ‘cricketing bond’ with India, keep politics separate — PCB chairman 

  • Ramiz Raja was talking to PCB Digital following his return from Dubai where he met officials from Board of Control for Cricket in India 
  • Says next Asian Cricket Council Asia Cup would be a 50-over competition held in Pakistan in September 2023

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja has said Pakistan needed to create a “cricketing bond” with India, adding that he had always believed that politics should remain separate from sports, the PCB website said.
Raja was speaking to PCB Digital following his return from Dubai, where he met officials from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), as well as held meetings on the Asian Cricket Council Asia Cup, a men’s One Day International and Twenty20 International cricket tournament whose next season will be held in Pakistan in 2023. 
“I met with BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah on the sidelines of the ACC meetings,” Raja said on Monday. “We need to create a cricketing bond, while I have also believed that politics should stay away from sport as much as possible and this has always been our stance.
“A lot of work needs to be done to revitalize Pakistan-India cricket but there needs to be some comfortable level between the two boards and then we can see how far we can go. So overall, we had a good discussion.”
The PCB chairman said the 2023 ACC Cup in Pakistan would be a 50-over competition: ““The ACC has agreed and approved that the 2023 event in Pakistan will be a 50-over competition and will be held in September. This aligns very nicely with the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, which will be held in October and November.
“We are looking forward to hosting this tournament in Pakistan and I am confident it will be a well-organized event because this is what the fans want.”