The proposed Kala Bagh Dam has not been abandoned. It
remains on the priority list of the present government and President
General Pervaiz Musharraf seams to be determined to build the major dam
which is certainly of vital importance for the future economy of
Pakistan.President gave an indication of his mind in his speech on the
inauguration of Ghazi Barotha Dam last week in which he said that Kala
Bagh and Bhasha dams will have to be built in order to provide
electricity to the masses at an affordable price. "They (the Dams)
have to be constructed at every cost", he declared.
President General Pervez Musharraf is determined to
build the mega dam due to its colossal advantages for agriculture and
power generation purposes. He plans to embark on a tour of Sindh during
which he will underline the importance of the project and expose the
hollowness of its opposition. He will be meeting the opponents of the
"We will prevail upon elements, who are
politicising the construction of the Kala Bagh Dam and accomplish our
mission", Musharraf said. Indeed, it will be an uphill task. It is
in Sindh where certain political elements had been exploiting the
proposed project and successfully scuttling it for decade even former
prime ministers Mohammad Khan Junejo and Benazir Bhutto had not approved
the dam for fear of political backlash in their home province.
Undoubtedly, former premier Nawaz Sharif had made
genuine efforts to build the dam but his bid was always shot down by the
politics of its opponents. In fact, he had tried to start physical work
on the project when he was at the peak of his popularity, but failed to
go ahead. Unluckily, the project became a favourite subject of political
controversy during General Zia-ul-Haq's. That was the time when the real
damage to the execution of the project was done. At the time, Khan Abdul
Wali Khan had declared that the Kala Bagh Dam, if built, would be
bombed. During different periods, deliberate controversies were
generated on the project to divert people's attention from the issues
that were most disturbing for the rulers of the day.
Musharraf rightly says that both the Kala Bagh and
Bhasha dams had to be built to push the country out of the difficult
period and provide relief to the common man, who is pressed hard by high
power tariff. If there is small opposition to the grand project in
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), a powerful political lobby in
Frontier also supports it and wants early initiation of work on it.
Unfortunately, the Kala Bagh Dam has fallen victim to sleazy politics.
But ironically those who have been hammering the project to take
political mileage out of it have continuously failed to get any
dividends at the husting.
Over one and a half decades, millions of dollars have
been spent on preparing different technical reports for the dam.
International financial institutions had agreed to fund the
multi-billion dollar project. But physical work on it has not started
due to opposition of Sindh and NWFP politicians. During different
periods, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) had held
meetings with Kala Bagh Dam's opponents to satisfy them. But at the end
of the day, these efforts had turned out to be futile. Every successive
government has been postponing the construction of the Kala Bagh Dam in
the name of evolving a national consensus on it first. But whenever such
an effort was made, it had met with failure. WAPDA has made relentless
attempts to allay the misgiving and misperceptions of Sindhi
politicians, but to no avail.
One may recall General Musharraf's all-out efforts
toward resolving the controversy around it in the midst of his brave
exercise in revival of the country's battered economy after assuming
power in 1999. His massive campaign, particularly, in Sindh and NWFP, to
end opposition to Kala Bagh Dam from all sorts of assurances, having
proved of little avail, it was deferred for three years, evidently
leaving the decision on the issue to the next elected government. It was
definitely a wise step although it must have caused heart burning to the
pro-Kala Bagh enthusiasts. However, he seems to have noted that the
controversy which had deepened over long years had acquired dangerous
political dimensions with no small a threat to interpovincial harmony.
It was basically because of his emphasis on national unity and harmony
among the provinces that he had earlier embarked on a spirited consensus
building mission that took him to every nook and corner of Sindh and
NWFP to convince people from various platforms about the urgency of
building the Kala Bagh Dam.
It will, however, be recalled that while deferring
construction of the controversial dam, WAPDA was instructed to devise
small reservoir projects in all the provinces. Moreover, responding to
the instruction, WAPDA soon came out with an array of small projects,
though spread over a number of years. Viewed in this perspective, the
President's emphasis that construction of all water reservoirs,
including Bhasha and Kala Bagh, is imperative for economic development
and sustained progress, seems unlikely to go undisputed by the provinces
that have remained basically opposed to it. Some idea of their likely
reaction may be had from the ongoing agitation in Sindh against the Thal