ISLAMABAD: Amid ongoing floods and seasonal river flow variations, the federal and provincial governments and other related agencies have agreed to formally give up on Oct 1 the decades-old manual system of recording river flows, storage and surface water availability and replace it with new software expected to remove water-related interprovincial misgivings.

“All calculations, data collections, flow forecasts and allocations of provincial waters shares for Rabi 2022-23 would be solely designed and based on Water Accord Apportionment Tool (WAA-Tool) when we make preparations later this month and plan for the next season,” said Khalid Idrees Rana, director and spokesperson for the Indus River System Authority (Irsa).

“There would be no manual recording of flows, storages and withdrawals or even planning water distribution among the provinces from now onwards,” he said while speaking at an event to discuss the technical aspects of the software.

Mr Rana said WAA-Tool had been in use for three years now side by side with manual operations, and finally, all the stakeholders to the 1991 water accord and agencies involved in water regulations and reservoir operations reached a consensus that now was the time to shift to the new tool as a precise and trustworthy mechanism for seasonal planning and water sharing among the provinces.

The agreement was finally reached among the provinces, the water resources ministry, Wapda and Irsa on Sept 12.

“Three years of fault-free operations developed trust in and acceptability to the new software,” he said in response to a question.

The new system can make flow forecasts for both Kharif and Rabi seasons, handle operations of both Tarbela and Mangla dams, conveyance allowances, water use allocations under the accord, data collection and analysis which would be available to every stakeholder at any station to access and work out shares as per allocation with a single click.

The same result would be available to all unlike the past practice of provincial irrigation departments, Irsa and Wapda having their own calculations and water availability forecasts, which has routinely led to a difference of opinions over their respective results, leading to confusion and mistrust.

Mr Rana said the parallel operations of both systems since Kharif 2019 had helped end interprovincial disputes. The software tool has been developed and tested jointly by the Ministry of Water Resources, Irsa, Wapda, and provincial irrigation departments in collaboration with the Australian government through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

However, stakeholders in Pakistan rep­eated their demand to Australian experts to improve the tool’s capability to accommodate the mid-season review process so that if the situation changes in the initial two months of a given season than projected, the planning could be altered accordingly.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2022

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