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 minister seeks enhanced pilgrimage arrangements in meeting with top Saudi Hajj official

Updated 23 sec ago

Pakistani minister seeks enhanced pilgrimage arrangements in meeting with top Saudi Hajj official

  • Aneeq Ahmed urges Saudi minister to accommodate Pakistani pilgrims near areas where Hajj rituals are performed
  • The Saudi minister says the kingdom has limited the number of private tour operators to improve Hajj services

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interim religious affairs minister Aneeq Ahmed discussed pilgrimage arrangements for next year with Saudi Hajj and Umrah minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah on Friday, requesting him to accommodate people from his country in areas situated closely to the places where the annual religious ritual is performed.

Ahmed is currently on a week-long visit to the kingdom where he has held meetings with senior officials to explore the possibility of expanding the Makkah Route Initiative beyond Islamabad to make the journey of Pakistani pilgrims more convenient.

He said after his conversation with the Saudi minister that the kingdom had agreed increase facilities for people of Pakistan who are interested in performing Hajj in the coming year.

“Accommodation, food and travel facilities for pilgrims will be finalized as soon as possible,” Ahmed was quoted as saying in a statement by his ministry.

“He asked Saudi Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah that flight schedule of Pakistani pilgrims should be finalized soon,” the statement continued. “Additionally, they should be accommodated near the pilgrimage places. The Makkah Route project should also be launched from other cities besides Islamabad.”

It added the Saudi minister pledged to offer more support to Pakistani pilgrims, saying the kingdom had already taken several measures to facilitate people performing Hajj.

He said that it had limited the number of private tour operators from 80 countries in the world and would only allow those companies that have 2,000 pilgrims.

“Karachi and Lahore are being considered for inclusion in the Makkah Route Initiative,” he added.

The initiative was introduced in Pakistan to provide customs and immigration services to pilgrims at their airport of origin to save them substantial time after arriving in Saudi Arabia.

According to official statistics, more than 26,000 Pakistani pilgrims benefited from the facility at the Islamabad airport this year.

Imran Khan’s woes set to rule him out of Pakistan election race

Updated 42 min 42 sec ago

Imran Khan’s woes set to rule him out of Pakistan election race

  • Participation of Imran Khan, the main opposition leader and former prime minister, in January’s general election is doubtful
  • Khan remains in jail after being convicted in a graft case in August despite his three-year sentence being suspended by a court

ISLAMABAD: The participation of main opposition leader and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in Pakistan’s general election set for January next year remains doubtful. Khan, winner of the last election in 2018, remains in jail after being convicted in a graft case in August despite his three-year sentence being suspended by a court.

Here are some facts about the options for Khan, 70, who is the country’s most popular party leader according to independent opinion polls:


Khan, 70, remains barred from holding public office for five years due to his conviction, despite the suspension of his jail sentence. The bar will remain in place until his conviction is overturned by the high court, where he has appealed, a situation that currently rules him out of the January elections.

It remains unclear if his appeal will be decided in time for the next election, but aside from this graft case, the former cricket star faces dozens of other serious cases, too, which carry sentences from five years up to a death penalty.


Khan remains in judicial custody for a case related to leaking state secrets, which is at a pre-trial stage being heard by a special court that holds proceedings at a prison where he’s detained on security grounds. This week, another court allowed police to add sedition charges against him in two cases related to abetting attacks against military installations on May 9 by his supporters to protest against his brief arrest.


Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party can still contest the elections and will seek to tap into a sympathy vote, but it has been severely hobbled by the departure of key leaders in the aftermath of the May violence and the crackdown that ensued.

In Khan’s absence, the PTI was being led by former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, but he too has been arrested in the state secrets case.


Analysts say the military-backed caretaker government, which has been questioned by the election commission over its credibility, wouldn’t let Khan bounce back, especially as independent polls show him to be the most popular party leader, a standing that could earn the PTI a good showing in January’s election.

Khan and his party continue to accuse the military of being behind his ousting and the crackdown.

The military, which according to analysts brought Khan to power in 2018, denies being behind his removal. His criticism of the armed forces and its top brass has not eased, and his appeals to the military to open talks with him haven’t yielded a response.

The military’s support remains key to anyone looking to attain power in Pakistan.

Pakistan PM says pushing for $10 billion disbursement of pledged flood-relief funds

Updated 54 min 26 sec ago

Pakistan PM says pushing for $10 billion disbursement of pledged flood-relief funds

  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar points out Pakistan’s flood recovery plan was built around the international pledges
  • The climate-induced floods affected million people and killed over 1,700 during last year’s monsoon season

KARACHI: Pakistan is striving to get donors to release $10 billion in pledges to help it recover from devastating floods by launching rebuilding projects that hinge on the funding, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-haq Kakar said on Friday.

Donors from around the world stepped up after Pakistan was hammered by floods last year and the $10 billion amounts to more than half of what Islamabad estimated it needed to rebound from the disaster.

“In all our interactions, one point has been that the projects are designed in accordance with the pledges, and that we ensure that they convert to tangible financial assistance,” Kakar told the national broadcaster.

“We’re trying to ensure that the amounts promised and pledged to us are dispersed to Pakistan and are spent on those affected by the floods,” he said.

Such funding is crucial for cash-strapped Pakistan but the government says it has not arrived, amid growing concerns about its future debt obligations. An IMF bailout was delayed until July this year over concerns about a lack of fiscal reform.

Among the donors were the Islamic Development Bank with $4.2 billion, the World Bank with $2 billion, Saudi Arabia with $1 billion, as well as the European Union and China. France and the United States also made contributions.

The floods, which scientists said were aggravated by global warming, affected at least 33 million people and killed more than 1,700 from the beginning of the monsoon season in mid-June 2022 until mid-November that year.

UK police release new images in fresh appeal for clues about British-Pakistani girl’s death

Updated 22 September 2023

UK police release new images in fresh appeal for clues about British-Pakistani girl’s death

  • Surrey Police hope the release of images will prompt people to share information about Sara Sharif and her family
  • UK authorities were alerted about her death by a call from Pakistan in which a man identified himself as her father

LONDON: British police on Friday released new pictures and renewed their appeal for information into the death of a 10-year-old girl, whose father will face trial for her murder.
Sara Sharif’s body was discovered at her family’s home in southern England on August 10.
A post-mortem examination revealed Sharif had sustained “multiple and extensive injuries” over a long period.
Her father, stepmother and uncle have been charged with murder and causing or allowing the death of a child.
They are expected to stand trial next autumn.
Surrey Police said they were releasing the new images “as part of our ongoing appeal for information to help us build a picture of her life prior to the discovery of her body.”
Police added that the photos “present Sara in the way we believe she may have dressed in the months prior to her death.”
“We are hoping that these images will prompt more people to come forward with information about her and her family.”
One of the pictures shows Sharif wearing a black hijab in what looks like a school photo and in the other she is wearing a blue hijab.
Sara’s father Urfan Sharif, 41, his partner Beinash Batool, 29, and his brother Faisal Malik, 28, traveled to Pakistan the day before her body was found.
An early morning emergency call alerting officers to Sara’s death was made from Pakistan by a man identifying himself as the father, according to detectives.
Following a month in the South Asian country, they returned to the UK on September 13 and were arrested on arrival at London’s Gatwick Airport.
They have been remanded in custody and are due to appear in court on December 1 for a plea hearing.
Their trial is due to begin on September 2, 2024 and is expected to last six weeks.

IMF chief wants Pakistan to increase tax revenue from rich, protect vulnerable

Updated 22 September 2023

IMF chief wants Pakistan to increase tax revenue from rich, protect vulnerable

  • The poor segments have been suffering due to high inflation which the government has attributed to IMF reforms
  • Kristalina Georgieva says economic reforms are not easy to implement but they are in the interest of Pakistani people

ISLAMABAD: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday her organization had been consistently communicating the need for Pakistani authorities to generate more tax revenue from wealthier social segments while protecting the underprivileged classes in the country.

The top IMF official made the comment during a brief interaction with a Pakistani reporter on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Her statement comes against the backdrop of spiraling inflation in Pakistan which has primarily affected the poor. The government has consistently attributed the increasing cost of living in the country to stringent economic reforms recommended by the international lender while approving a $3 billion bailout in June.

“Let me send a simple message to everybody in Pakistan,” she said while speaking to Geo News correspondent. “What we are asking in our program is please collect more taxes from the wealthy and please protect the poor people of Pakistan.”

“I do believe that this is in line with what people in Pakistan would like to see for the country,” she added.

The IMF chief acknowledged the conditions laid down by her organization to revitalize Pakistan’s economy and address the mistakes of the past were not easy to implement.

However, she maintained they were in the interest of the people of Pakistan.

Georgieva statement comes following her meeting with Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Tuesday in which she was briefed on measures taken by the country’s interim administration to stabilize the economy.

The IMF asked Pakistan to raise energy prices and following market-driven exchange rate which made the CPI hit a record 38 percent this year and the national currency plummet to all-time lows.

Kakar said he had a “constructive dialogue” with the IMF chief who, in turn, said there was an agreement to follow policies to ensure stability and foster sustainable and inclusive growth in Pakistan.