Pakistan is the 7th most populous country in the
world and the 4th largest in Asia. There is a broad consensus that the
rapid population growth and poverty reinforce each other. In this
context, the low fertility turns up as one of the keys to save the hard
earned economic growth and reduce poverty in this country.
While the increase in population is impairing the
economic growth, the shortfall in the availability of water both for
irrigation and drinking purposes getting into a serious proportion with
every passing year. Although the two years of negative growth, major
crops maintained their customary largest share in the financial year
2002, contributing more than 40 per cent of the value addition. However,
the decline in major crops not only overshadowed the progress of other
sub sectors of the agriculture but also pushed down overall GDP growth.
On one hand the water shortage forces reduction in
under cultivation of the major crops the backbone of the economy while
on the other economy is suffering due to high generating cost of the
thermal power. The situation thus demands for better water management to
get optimum benefits of the available agriculture lands and to general
hydroelectric which is again the cheaper source for power production.
During the last two years, among the four most
important crops with a 90.7 per cent share in major crops declines were
recorded in the production of rice, cotton and wheat. With a worsening
of the water shortage in the later half of Kharif and the entire season
of Rabi, the area under rice and wheat dropped and thus loss was
compounded by yield declines.
There has been a significant relationship between
water availability and the area under cultivation of important crops.
Everybody knows that Pakistan has vast barren lands
in the province of Balochistan. Highly valuable agriculture lands going
un-utilized due to shortage of water in the country. The situation
demands for ways and means to overcome this challenge through better
management of the available water resources.
In this respect, the present government is
considering to take practical steps to go for construction of smaller
dams in the province of Sindh and a mega project of the proposed size of
Kalabagh or Bhasha dam in the upcountry.
In this respect the government would take final
decision regarding construction of Kalabagh dam or Bhasha dam next year,
as Pakistan "directly needs one such dam" after every 15 years
to keep the national economy on track.
The government had conducted a study on Bhasha dam
project two years ago, which is now in its final stage as its last
winter reading is underway. President Pervez Musharraf has recently
stated "We could have built Kalabagh dam, if it was not
politicized. There was strong resentment in Sindh against the
construction of Kalabagh dam and we adhered to the policy of
"Pakistan First" which means that every decision should be
taken after achieving the consensus."
It may be mentioned that the politicization of the
Kalabagh dam has cost heavily on the economy of the country. On the
feasibility report of Kalabagh dam, the country had to bear expenses
running in billions of rupees and owe to pay back to the World Bank.
The reservations of the people of Sindh on the
construction of Kalabagh dam were genuine and justified especially in
view of their apprehensions of the dry bed of the Indus for most of the
time in the year.
It is a sensitive issue but pertinent for survival of
the economy. To avoid fragmentation of the national consensus on account
of construction of Kalabagh, the economic managers have come out with a
substitute of Bhasha dam. It is suggested that after going through all
pros cons of the project taking special care of all the provincial
interests, we should go with the dams aiming at bring prosperity to the
people of every province without any discretion. Prior to the
construction of larger dam like Bhasha dam the economic managers should
initiate the smaller dams projects on which the studies have already
completed for the satisfaction of the people of the smaller province
especially the tail enders.
Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has also
said that his government has no reservation on Kalabagh dam or Greater
Thal Canal Projects. We are determined to do everything in the greater
The completion period of any dam is at last ten years
and in order to overcome drought situation, we are taking various steps,
including raising water level of Mangla dam and construction of other
smaller dams in the country.
In order to meet multi-faced needs of the economy
ranging from irrigation, power generation and save the waste of the
available water resource, the government has initiated "Vision
2025, which is a $32.5 billion development program for water and
hydropower resources in the country.
This is certainly a mega project and if the proposed
project under Vision 2025 were completed according to the schedule and
the quality of the work was maintained the water related problems would
be redressed to a greater extent. Water which is the source of life
comes on top priority in the life of the human society. Its judicious
management could bring relief in every aspect of life hence the issue
needs to be treated above all individual or political considerations.