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)
Short Url
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.”


JS Bank & Home Matters collaborate to provide housing finance to UAE-based Pakistanis 

Updated 10 sec ago

JS Bank & Home Matters collaborate to provide housing finance to UAE-based Pakistanis 

  • JS Bank is among fastest-growing banks in Pakistan with both domestic and international presence
  • Home Matters consultants are market leaders in mortgage and property transaction consultation in UAE

KARACHI: JS Bank has partnered with Home Matters, one of the UAE’s top mortgage brokers, to provide easy and convenient home financing solutions to Non-Resident Pakistanis (NRPs) at flexible markup rates, a press release said on Wednesday.
Home Matters will provide an end-to-end mortgage brokerage service exclusively for JS Bank.
The agreement was signed on Wednesday by Fahad Siddiqui, Head of Secured Lending JS Bank, and Sawan Karia, Managing Director, Home Matters Mortgage Consultants.
Speaking at the occasion, Fahad Siddiqui, said, “As the largest conventional home loan providing bank in Pakistan, JS Bank is proud to partner with an industry leader like Home Matters to service our valued customers living abroad. This strategic partnership will serve as an end-to-end solution for NRP clients living in the UAE for both searching for the right property and selecting the right financing solutions in Pakistan.”
Sawan Karia said, “This exclusive partnership represents a historic milestone, enabling Home Matters to remotely service Non-resident Pakistani clients for a property purchase in Pakistan through a mortgage with JS Bank. As a pioneer in its field, JS Bank is the first to offer mortgages to NRPs living in the UAE. Pakistanis represent the second-largest ex-pat population, and It is a privilege for Home Matters to be servicing their mortgage needs.”
JS Bank has taken this step to make housing finance in Pakistan more accessible to NRPs through innovative product solutions, enabling homeownership to become an achievable reality, the bank said.
JS Bank is among the fastest-growing Bbanks in Pakistan, with both domestic and an international presence.
Home Matters consultants are market leaders in providing independent mortgage and property transaction consultation in United Arab Emirates.


Pakistan records lowest single day rise in coronavirus cases in a year

Updated 5 min 50 sec ago

Pakistan records lowest single day rise in coronavirus cases in a year

  • 618 new infections recorded on October 19 last year, on October 20 this year 554 new cases reported
  • The government has administered a total of at least 93,551,193 doses of COVID vaccines so far

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported 554 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, the lowest number of COVID-19 cases recorded in a single day since October last year, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.
The South Asian country has reported 1,266,204 total infections and 28,312 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. The government has administered a total of at least 93,551,193 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 21.6 percent of the country’s population.
Pakistan’s pandemic response body, the NCOC, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that the country had recorded 554 daily infections in the last 24 hours. This is the lowest since October 19, 2020, when 618 cases were reported.


More than 1.2 million people have so far recovered from the coronavirus in Pakistan, while 1,783 people remain in critical care in hospitals across the country.


Deputy ruler of Dubai visits Pakistan pavilion at Expo 2020 

Updated 17 min 9 sec ago

Deputy ruler of Dubai visits Pakistan pavilion at Expo 2020 

  • Exhibitors from 200 countries are participating in Expo with aim to boost trade and investment
  • The Pakistan pavilion was officially inaugurated by President Arif Alvi on October 9

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, this week toured the Pakistan pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Emirates News Agency (WAM) said.
The Expo is the first world fair to be held in the Middle East, and Dubai, the region’s tourism, trade and business hub, is hoping to boost its economy by attracting 25 million business and tourist visits to the exhibition, which has been built from scratch on 4.3 sq km (1.7 sq mile) of desert at a cost of around $6.8 billion.
Exhibitors from almost 200 countries, including Pakistan, are participating, with many countries and companies looking to the expo — the first major global event open to visitors since the coronavirus pandemic — to boost trade and investment.
The Pakistan pavilion was officially inaugurated by President Dr. Arif Alvi on October 9. Last week, the commerce ministry said over 55,000 people had visited the site only in its first week since launching.
“Sheikh Maktoum also visited the Pakistan Pavilion located at the Opportunity District, which showcases the country’s diverse environmental beauty,” WAM reported.
“The pavilion offers a one-of-a-kind tour of the nation’s towering ‘peaks of progress’ in sustainability, sports, technology and much more. With a history spanning 7,000 years, ever-evolving with art, culture and diversity, Pakistan is one of the world’s best-kept secrets.
“During the tour, H.H. was briefed on the main highlights in Pakistan’s journey toward the future through the pavilion’s huge interactive screens.”
Built from scratch on 4.3 square km of desert, the Expo is divided into three sub-theme districts: Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability.
The Pakistani pavilion, themed “The Hidden Treasure,” is located in the Opportunity area.


Pakistani finance chief joins talks on bailout loan in Washington as IMF cites ‘progress’ 

Updated 26 min 45 sec ago

Pakistani finance chief joins talks on bailout loan in Washington as IMF cites ‘progress’ 

  • Pakistani and IMF are currently engaged in talks for the release of $1 billion tranche of $6 billion loan
  • In June, similar talks between the two sides failed to bring agreement on conditions for the tranche

ISLAMABAD: IMF Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department, Jihad Azour, has said there was ‘progress’ in talks between officials from the IMF and Pakistan for the release of the latest tranche in a bailout package.
The comments come as Pakistani media reported this and last week that ongoing talks for the release of a $1 billion tranche of a three-year, $6 billion bailout package accord reached in 2019 had failed.
Five reviews of the program had been completed by March. The sixth is pending since June this year, which, if completed, will enable Pakistan to receive around $1 billion from the fund.
On Tuesday, the finance ministry said Pakistan’s finance chief Shaukat Tarin had returned to Washington to join the ongoing discussions.


“The IMF mission to Pakistan and authorities are currently in the process of discussion around the sixth review of the program and the discussions are progressing around the various pillars of the program and the measures that the government of Pakistan is currently contemplating,” Azour said as he unveiled the IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook.
“The progress has gone in a very good step and the mission with the authorities is going through various details.”


The government’s finance ministry this week dismissed reports by local media over the weekend that talks were inconclusive.
“Negotiations between Pakistan and IMF are moving forward positively. No timeframe was set at any stage for the conclusion of the talks,” a statement issued by the finance ministry said.
In June, a similar round of talks between the two sides failed to bring agreement on conditions for the tranche.

 

 


Pakistani physician elected to National Academy of Medicine, one of highest honors in medicine 

Updated 20 October 2021

Pakistani physician elected to National Academy of Medicine, one of highest honors in medicine 

  • Dr. Anita Zaidi is president for gender equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • She was elected “for global leadership in paediatric infectious disease research and capacity development“

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani physician Dr. Anita Zaidi was elected this week to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
Founded in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is one of three academies that make up the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies) in the United States. Operating under the 1863 Congressional charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that work outside of government to provide objective advice on matters of science, technology, and health.
The Academy said Zaidi, president for gender equality and director of vaccine development and surveillance and of enteric and diarrheal diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was elected “for global leadership in paediatric infectious disease research and capacity development relevant to improving newborn and child survival in developing countries.”
Since joining the foundation in 2014, Zaidi has led a team focused on vaccine development for people in the poorest parts of the world, surveillance to identify and address causes of death in children in the most under-served areas, and significantly reducing the adverse consequences of diarrheal and enteric infections on children’s health in low and middle-income countries, according to the Gates Foundation website.
“Through this role, Anita champions innovative work on behalf of low-income women and children, including the creation of the Women Leaders in Global Health program— now called WomenLift Health— to promote diversity in global health leadership. She also works closely with the foundation’s Maternal Newborn Child Health Discovery & Tools program,” it said.
Previously, Anita was the department chair of Pediatrics and Child Health at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, where she worked to reduce child mortality through the prevention and treatment of illness.
She obtained her medical degree specializing in pediatric infectious diseases at Aga Khan University, and completed further training at Duke University, Boston’s Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Public Health. To date, Anita has published more than 200 research papers on vaccine-preventable diseases and newborn infections in resource-limited settings.
In 2013, Anita became the first recipient of the $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize for her pioneering work bringing health services and wraparound care to mothers and children in poverty-stricken communities in Karachi. She was also nominated as a notable physician of the year in 2014 by Medscape.
“It is my privilege to welcome this extraordinary class of new members. Their contributions to health and medicine are unmatched – they’ve made groundbreaking discoveries, taken bold action against social inequities, and led the response to some of the greatest public health challenges of our time,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau.
“This is also the NAM’s most diverse class of new members to date, composed of approximately 50 percent women and 50 percent racial and ethnic minorities. This class represents many identities and experiences – all of which are absolutely necessary to address the existential threats facing humanity. I look forward to working with all of our new members in the years ahead.”
The newly elected members bring NAM’s total membership to more than 2,200 and the number of international members to approximately 172.