Water crisis: Panic spreads as Tarbela dam hits dead level


LAHORE: Tarbela Dam on the Indus River reaches its lowest point today as the water level was measured at dead level i.e. 1,398 feet, as a result of unusually low inflows during the summer months, exacerbating the water crisis in the lowlands.

A calamity of this nature would further constrict flows downstream, reduce drinking water supplies, and negatively impacting standing crops.

This year, on March 20, 2022, the water storage capacity of the Tarbela Dam dropped to its minimal level, leading to a drastic fall in irrigation supplies and hydroelectric power output amidst extended periods of load-shedding.

The current lower trend in river flows portends disaster for the agriculture sector, which is already struggling under an unprecedented heatwave, which causes abiotic stress in plants. According to the WAPDA report, the river inflows and outflows at Tarbela, Mangla, and Chashma on May 22, 2022, as well as the reservoir levels and barrages, were as follows: Indus inflow at Tarbela, 82,800 cusecs and outflow, 95,000 cusecs; Kabul inflow at Nowshera, 28,700 cusecs and outflow, 28,700 cusecs; Jhelum inflow at Mangla, 36,100 cusecs and outflow, 33,800 cusecs;Chenab inflow at Marala, 31,400 cusecs and outflow, 21,400 cusecs.

In addition, the inflow and outflow conditions at barrages were as follows: Jinnah inflow, 107,100 cusecs and outflow, 99,600 cusecs; Chashma inflow, 120,600 cusecs and outflow, 115,000 cusecs; Taunsa inflow, 113,200 cusecs and outflow, 89,100 cusecs; Panjnad inflow 11,600 cusecs and outflow 0 cusecs, Guddu inflow, 66,900 cusecs and outflow, 62,300 cusecs, Sukkur inflow, 44,400 cusecs and outflow, 16,500 cusecs, Kotri inflow, 7,200 cusecs and outflow, 100 cusecs.

Tarbela minimum working level, 1,398 feet; current level, 1400 feet; current consumable water storage at Tarbela 221,000, water maximum conservation level, 1,550 feet; live storage on Sunday, 0.059 million acre feet (MAF). Mangla minimum working level is 1,050 feet, the current level is 1,085 feet, and the maximum conservation level is 1,242 feet, current consumable water storage at Mangla 118,000.