The project will further improve agricultural and industrial production in the country



Oct 07 - 13, 2002


At long last, a consensus has emerged over raising of the height of the Mangla water reservoir. A high-level meeting, in Islamabad last week attended among others by the AJK Prime Minister, Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan and Chairman WAPDA cleared the project for performing ground-breaking ceremony by the President on 30th of September. The project (raising the height of the dam by 30 feet) which will be completed in 5-year at a cost of Rs.60 billion will bring about a revolution in the agriculture sector of the country as it will provide about 3 million area feet additional irrigation water.

While speaking on the occasion President Gen. Musharraf announced payment of Mangla Dam royalty to the Azad Kashmir government as well as a handsome package to the affectees. "The AJK will be given Rs.700 to Rs.800 million as royalty immediately this year and royalty will be paid every year under a formula being devised, the president announced.

This is indeed a welcome development as persistent newspapers reports suggested that some quarters were out to make this important and vital project as another political and controversial issue. Such elements were quite active in Azad Kashmir and their statements and attitude was being used by India as a tool to whip up venomous propaganda against Pakistan.

No doubt, all projects, dams and water channels have humanitarian and environmental issues but it is the overall national interest that becomes the deciding factor and not petty personal interests and objectives. In this case too, about forty thousand likely affectees will have to be resettled and it was natural on the part of the affectees to make hue and cry to safeguard their interests. However, there are two important points that need to be understood in proper perspective. First of all, raising of the dam was part of the original construction plan for the Mangla reservoir and that is why its design provided for the expansion and upgradation but knowing it fully well the authorities sit idle while settlements continue to sprawl around the dam. Secondly, the benefits of the dam both for the economy of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir are far more than its negative consequences.

It is satisfying that WAPDA and AJK Government have agreed on a fairly comprehensive compensation package to the satisfaction of the latter. One has to appreciate the efforts of President Pervez Musharraf who took personal interest to ensure that differences are hammered out to enable WAPDA to initiate work on the project. The issue would have become complicated if it were allowed to linger on further.

Speaking in a PTV programme, President of Azad Kashmir Maj Gen. (Rtd. ) Sardar Muhammad Anwar Khan thanked the president of Pakistan for resolving an old issue through his personal efforts. He also thanked him for the generous package both in terms of royalty to AJK government and compensation to the affectees.

The raising of dam's storage capacity by 30 feet will also lead to an annual increase of 772 GWH in the energy output from the country's second largest water reservoirs, Elaborating further, he said the compensation package for the people to be affected by the project has also been widely hailed. The AJK President said President Gen. Musharraf while inaugurating the project has announced Rs.300,000 each for the old-affectees who were given compensation in the past but were awaiting allocation of land. He further said the announced package is attractive and never before offered as compensation for such projects in the country. Under the announced package, the government will pay the cost of a house at market rate with an additional 10 per cent of its total price.

He informed the occupants have also been allowed rights on "malba" (rubble) of the demolished house and even dwellers of a single-room house will get a minimum amount of Rs.300,000. Sardar Anwar said the President has announced to give 5-marla plot free of cost to compensate even those who have constructed houses on state land. He said a long-standing demand of the masses in AJK has also been accepted by the President of Pakistan with open heart under which upto around Rs.800 million annual royalty will be given to AJK. it will enhance economic activity in the area. This royalty will be used for the development of the area and for other productive purposes he said, adding, the step has removed the reservation that Kashmiris are being treated differently.

He said the project will further improve agricultural and industrial production in the country as well as in AJK territory. Kashmiris always welcome projects beneficial for the country and enhancing water storage capacity by this project is in best interest of the country and will have a healthy impact on the country's economy. The raising of Dam will not only make available sufficient irrigation water but also electricity generation for the industrial sector; he added.

Sardar Anwar said gross storage capacity of Mangla Dam when constructed in 1967 was 5.88 MAF which has been reduced to 4.68 MAF by the time the dam raising project is completed in 2007. He said raising of dam by 30ft will extend its life. The newly-launched project will guide in the new era of speedy progress and prosperity by bringing about a green revolution in the country. Azad Jammu and Kashmir will also highly benefit from the project as downstream areas on thousands acres in Mirpur and Bhimbher districts will be brought under irrigation.