Decision should be made in national interest


Sep 29 - Oct 05, 2003




Construction of Kalabagh dam has become a point of debate over the years. It is interesting to note that the project is strongly supported by the people when they are on the right side of the table. However, the same elements oppose it by tooth and nail when they are on the other side of the table. This shift in the interest of the people playing key role in the national affairs has done nothing but deprived this country and the people from the economic benefits they could have availed at least a decade earlier.

A senior economist said" people in the game of politics always in search of issues to remain alive in the game of politics. As such they have turned an economic project into a political issue just to remain in headlines, but at what cost?

Another important point he raised that for quite some times, we have given up the concept of long term planning especially in the economic scenario. The governments in the past were living on ad-hoc policies because they would be the beneficiaries of the long term plans. As a result of this day-to-day policy nation has already suffered heavily.

Currently, the shortage of water and low cost electricity are the issues which need to be addressed on top priority.

In fact, Pakistan urgently needs additional water reservoirs for meeting water shortage for agriculture use and the water demand of rapidly increasing population. Present online storage facilities are depleting fast. The situation demands for additional reservoirs to regulate river flow and integrated water resource management more effective.

Development of water storages has remained dormant since 1976. Currently, Pakistan has the capacity of storing only 11 per cent of total surface water, while it is generating only 12 per cent of total hydro power potential. Besides this, 22.5 million acres cultivable land is available for agriculture use if adequate water is supplied. The hydel-thermal power ratio also needs to be improved.

As far as the existing water reservoirs are concerned, Tarbela dam having its total original storage capacity of 11.62 million acre feet (MAF) has lost its storage capacity by 26 per cent and in 2020, it would be 43 per cent. Similarly, Mangla Dam having original storage capacity of 5.88 MAF has also been reduced by 20 per cent in 2002, and it is expected that in 2013, the percentage would increase to 26 and by 2020; its capacity would be reduced by 30 per cent.



In order to meet the challenges of increasing demand of water and power, the government has launched "vision 2025" with the objective of developing 26 MAF water storage and 23,000 Megawatt (MW) of hydro, coal and gas power generation capacity.

The construction of Kalabagh dam which has become imperative under the situation could start in 2004, with the project cost of $5 billion and it would be completed in 2010.

Life capacity of Kalabagh dam, according to its feasibility, is 6.1 MAF while water availability from source in 90 MAF throughout the year. Logistic problems of the dam are less while it would economically benefit the country to the tune of Rs60 billion per year, apart from ensuring timely availability of water to tail end users in the province of Sindh.

Bhasha dam, another project under consideration of the government could be completed by 2013 provided its construction starts in 2006. The life capacity of this dam is 7.34 MAF while water availability from the source is 50 MAF throughout the year. Its logistic problems are more than the Kalabagh dam, but it would give the same economic benefits of the Kalabagh dam.


The people of the provinces of Sindh and NWFP, however, are expressing their apprehensions and concerns over the construction of Kalabagh dam. They have their own reservations. In plain language, people of Sindh have fears that they would become hostage to the upcountry in getting their share out of the water resources and their lands would turn into deserts whereas the people of the NWFP feels there are apprehensions of adverse effects on the drainage of Mardan, Pabbi and Swabi.

The official side, however, assures that issue of flooding Nowshera and Peshawar valley would be averted by modern flood warning system which would provide adequate safeguards against floods.

The fear of getting less water in Sindh is however seems unfounded in the light of past experience. It may be recalled that after construction of Tarbela dam Sindh canal withdrawals had increased from 35.17 to 44.17 MAF and it would further increase by 2 MAF after completion of Kalabagh dam.

The conservation level of Kalabagh dam is about 915 feet which is estimated lower than the lowest ground level of Mardan, Pabbi and Sawabi areas hence the question of being submerged of these areas was just a fickle of mind.

By the grace of God we have got improved our economic conditions. Our economy can now be described as vibrant economy. Situation demands consolidation of available economic resources and to use them more productively. For the noble cause of nation building we have to shun all our petty issues just for political gains.

Much water has already passed under the bridge, now it should be reserved for the poor of this country.