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
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
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
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.