Protection of the Indus River System for the Survival of Tens of Millions of Sindhis sign now

CC:
General Pervaiz Musharraf, Chief Executive, Pakistan
Goerge W. Bush, President, The United States of America
Nicole Fontaine, President, The European Parliament
Tony Blair, Prime Minister, the United Kingdom
Paul Strasburg, Chairman, International Rivers Network


Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

With a length of 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers,) the Indus River is one of the longest rivers in the world. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the river's annual flow is about 2.4 trillion cubic feet -twice that of the Nile and three times that of the Tigris and Euphrates combined.

The fertile basin of the Indus River was an important center of ancient civilization. Buried cities found here, such as, Mohenjo-daro near Karachi, are at least as old as the first pyramids of Egypt.
The Indus rises in the Kailas Mountains in Tibet, near the sources of the Brahmaputra, Sutlaj, and Ghaghara, and flows northwest for over 500 miiles (800 kilometers) through Tibet and then Kashmir, between Ladakh and Zanskar mountain ranges. The main tributary of its upper course, the Shyok, joins here. Indus then turns southwest. The Kabul River from Afghanistan joins it at Attock. Then it enters the Province of Punjab in the present-day Pakistan.

Before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the then Province of Punjab had control of five Indus tributaries, that is, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. These tributaries merged together at various locations to finally empty into the mighty Indus River. From Punjab, the Indus crosses the plain of the Province of Sindh, Pakistan and reaches the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean through a delta about 130 miles (210 kilometers) wide.

Mr. Secretary General, Punjab has been progressively increasing its illegal share in the waters of the Indus River since 1889. On complaints of Sindh, the then British Indian Government constituted various commissions, e.g., Anderson Commission, Rau Commission, etc. These commissions as well as the Sindh/Punjab inter-provincial agreement of 1945 admitted Sindhs primary right on all rivers of the Indus River System.

In 1960, the military regime surrendered, under Indus Basin Treaty, the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas and Sutlej) to India, along with Sindhs acknowledged share, without prior consent or compensation to Sindh. The military government also built Mangla Dam over Jhelum River and a huge hydropower Tarbela Dam over the Indus River. Several barrages and canals are built upstream causing severe social and ecological problems in the country. The Chashma-Jhelum Link Canal and the Taunsa-Panjnad Link Canals were also build to siphon-off more and more of Sindhs share from the Indus River, redirecting it to favorite areas of Punjab.

The dubious workings of the Indus River Systems Authority (IRSA) only add to the mistrust. In flagrant violation of inter-provincial agreement, the Chashma-Jhelum link canal (capacity 21000 cusecs) and Taunsa-Panjnad link canal (capacity 12000 cusecs) are kept flowing by the Punjab Irrigation Department for the last several years. These canals were only meant to flow at the time of surplus availability of water in River Indus to avoid flood in Sindh.

Moreover, according to the inter-provincial Water Accord of 1991, Sindh's share of Indus water for the month of April is 121,400 cusecs whereas only 30,275 cusecs were released in April 2000. The month of April is sowing season for Kharif (summer) crops through which Sindhi people generate most of their annual income. In sharp contrast to this, Punjab was able to achieve 2 percent increase in the area under cotton and other crops during the same period.

The people of Sindh believe that although there is less water in the Indus River System this year, due to the shortfall of rain and snow, the current water crisis is deliberately aggravated by the Punjab-led federal government to blackmail the people of Sindh to agree on the construction of the oft-rejected Kalabagh Dam.

The River Indus has been the mainspring of the five thousand year old Indus Valley Civilization. It plays a pivotal role in the shaping of the psyche of the people of Sindh, fashioning their society, culture and economic life. Sindhis affectionately call Indus as Darya Shah or The Great River. Any further damming of the Indus River will keep it dry below Sukkur for most of the year. With the projects like Kalabagh Dam it will be reduced from once a mighty river to mere expanse of shallow water. This will destabilize the psyche of the Sindhi people and will tantamount to cultural invasion and destruction of their ancient heritage.

Mr. Secretary General, while the Federal Government and Punjab continue to insist on the construction of the costly and controversial large dams on River Indus, myriad of less capital intensive and sustainable alternatives are available to ensure the increased availability of irrigation water at the agriculture farms, guaranteeing the food security, such as:

1. With better on-farm water management and lining of water carrying channels much of the sixty percent (60 MAF) of the total irrigation water, which is lost in transit, can be saved and utilized, whereas the proposed dam capacity is only 6.7 MAF. This will also prevent 100,000 acres from being waterlogged every year. Special taxes should be levied in Punjab to improve their canal system to save the precious water.

2. Promoting sustainable agriculture, organic farming and research in these fields can increase the fertility of soil resulting in increased food production per unit of the irrigation water used.

3. Without any further alteration, the Mangla dam can hold 2 MAF more water right now, and if its banks are raised 40 feet more, it can easily store more than 3 MAF of water.

4. Removing silt from the existing Tarbela dam is another feasible option. It would cost much less than projected US$ 12 -14 billion for constructing large dams and will increase its life by another 100 years. Cumulatively, these measures will increase capacity of existing dams more than what is projected after the construction of Kalabagh Dam or Basha Dam. Sindh pays 70\%+ to the Federation. Punjab pays less than 13\%. According to our information, over the years, significant amounts of monies have already been misappropriated by the Punjabi-led Department of Irrigation. Therefore, Sindh is being hit twice: first by getting charged for the desilting work, and then by not receiving water.

5. Other identified sites, e.g. Dasu, Thakot, Skardu and Banji, can also be considered for constructing less harmful water reservoirs or carry-over dams.

6. Smaller dams can also be built at hundreds of places in Balochistan, especially at Mirani and Hangu. These dams could irrigate vast areas of Balochistan, which alone can feed entire Pakistan.

7. Many small reservoirs could also be built in Sindh as well. For instance, Manchar, Nagarparkar and at many other places. Construction of such dams would also ameliorate the drought conditions, which often develop due to monsoon failure.

In spite of availability of cheaper and sustainable alternatives, the coercion of the people of Sindh and small provinces continues relentlessly. The insistence of the Federal Government of Pakistan to go ahead with the said project have led the people of Sindh to the belief that the actual purpose of building any large dam on Indus is to control the lifeline of the Sindh Province. This will provide a ruthless leverage to the ruling military and bureaucracy dictating the lives of 40 million people of Sindh.

Mr. Secretary General, based on historical claim on Sindhu (the Indus River) by the Sindhi people, and based on modern treaties and accords signed by the legal representatives of the Sindhi people, we urge you to convince the Punjabi-led Federal Government of Pakistan to:

a. Relinquish the control of the entire Indus River System to Sindh.

b. Only the legal representatives of the people of Sindh must formulate the policies regarding the distribution of water from, and damming of the Indus River System.

c. The entire workforce to look after the Indus River System must be hired from Sindh.

d. Sindh must be allowed to deduct the monies to look after the Indus River System from the 70\%+ tax it gives to the Federation each year.

e. Punjab must pay for all the water it uses from the Indus River System.

Regards
Committe Against Oppression of Sindh

Note: Special thanks to Sindhi Association of North America's People Against Kalabagh Dam Committee (PAKDAC) for providing factual information about the Indus River System and the Kalabagh Dam.

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Fran KeyBy:
Culture and SocietyIn:
Petition target:
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations Organization

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