Sindhi growers fear new phases of Thal Canal may ruin agri economy

By Jan Khaskheli

Sindh’s growers have opposed the launch of the Greater Thal Canal phases 3 and 4 on the River Indus, considering it may cause the destruction of the agriculture economy of the tail-end Sindh, which provides a source of livelihood to the millions of people in Southern areas of Pakistan.

Sindh Growers Alliance (SGA) President Nawab Zubair Talpur expressed his serious concerns over the project being launched under directives by the Chief Minister of Punjab and has appealed to the federal government to intervene instantly and stop its construction.

“It is a violation of the 1991 Water Accord, which indicates that no province will be allowed to launch any water project on the River Indus for irrigation purposes without prior consensus with the Sindh and Balochistan people.”

Zubair Talpur, who is leading the growers in the Sindh province, pleads that 10 million acre-feet (maf) of water has been ensured for downstream Kotri under the Water Accord 1991 to save the Indus delta, which provides a source of livelihood to millions of people in the coastal areas.

He quoted international conventions, which have clarified that no project on the river can be allowed without a consensus of coastal communities because the Delta is the ultimate end of the river.

The river Indus stream is the key to maintaining the ecosystem in the Deltaic region.

The SGA leader said on one side there is a plan for building a new Sindh Barrage project, downstream of Kotri, while on the other side, the Greater Thal Canal phases 3 and 4 are being launched, despite the water scarcity in the entire country.

It may affect the building of the newly planned Sindh Barrage and cause the destruction of agriculture in the lower riparian, Sindh province.

He questioned, why the Punjab government is violating the Water Accord to deprive the people of smaller provinces, despite clearly mentioning in the famous Water Accord 1991 that any project can be launched with the consent of all four provinces.

Sindh Assembly has already passed a resolution unanimously against the Greater Thal Canal phases 3 and 4. Coastal communities, mainly fishermen are protesting against mega water projects on the river, he pointed out.

Talpur said all parliamentarians from Sindh and other provinces are being motivated to oppose the project, which may cause devastation to the agriculture economy in Sindh.

He said Sindh has already been experiencing water scarcity for a long time and tail-end growers are unable to irrigate their pieces of land for their survival. 

The SGA leader said in case of failure by the federal government to stop this destructive project, they will launch a campaign against with water activists and fishermen against it and lodge complaints to the Asian Development Bank (ADP) to avoid support of this mega project, which will cause devastation for people of Sindh.

Reportedly, the ADB will provide 90 per cent of the funds for the project, which will irrigate nearly Rs 0.4 million acres of land of five districts in Punjab, including Jhang, Khushab, Bhakkar, Layyah and Muzaffargarh.

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