The decades old controversy over the construction of
Kalabagh dam seems to have arrived at a point where a final word
"yes" or "no'' about the fate of the project has become
inevitable in view of the aggravated water crisis which may seriously
affect the winter crops.
According to expert opinion, the climatic change in
the Northern part of the country has slowed down snow melting at the
mountain peaks due to unusual drop of the temperature. Consequently, the
river flows has declined and reduced water level in the two major dams
of the country.
The low water level in the reservoirs may not suffice
to the water needs of the winter crops not only this year but as a
permanent feature because of the climatic change, as earlier said.
Besides reduction in water supplies for the irrigation purposes, the
water shortage was also adversely affecting the hydro power generation
at Tarbela and Mangla dams.
In the backdrop of the prevailing situation,
construction of dams and barrages are expected to come around soon, as
the shortage of water is badly felt by the population and the farm
sector. Pakistan, it is feared to face a shortage of water to irrigate
its winter wheat crop because of lower than-usual monsoon rains in July
and delayed snow melting which have reduce water levels at the two main
According to official figures, Kalabagh dam would
have a storage capacity of 6.1 million acre feet and a power generation
capacity of 3600mw. Bhasha, which is another proposed dam to be situated
in Chilas, would have a storage capacity of 7.3 million acre feet and
power generation capacity of 4500 mw. Akhori dam, the third proposed dam
would have a storage capacity of 6 million acre feet but its power
generation capacity is just 600mw. Katzara Skardu dam would have a
storage capacity was estimated at 35 million acre feet and power
generation capacity of 3500mw.
According to informed sources, the escalated cost of
Kalabagh dam has now touched the level of $5.65 billion as against the
original cost of $1 billion some ten years ago. While the estimated cost
of other proposed dams was $6.7 billion for Bhasha, $1.6 billion for
If the present government, which seems to be
determined on the construction of dams, as a long-term remedy for water
crisis, decides to go ahead, one of the most beneficiaries of the
construction of dams would be cement sector in Pakistan.
According to an estimate, the cement sector would be
required to produce at least 3 million tons of cement more per annum to
meet the cement demand for the construction of high dams. Since all
these water reservoir projects were located in the Northern part of the
country, the cement units of the Northern areas would be the real
beneficiary of the decision.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, unlike the
politicians who shelved the projects of economic significance owing to
political considerations, has time and again warned the crucial issue of
water shortage and the construction of dams to save the country from
President Musharraf, it is learnt is likely to
undertake an extensive tour of the province of Sindh to spell out the
merits and demerits of Kalabagh dam to the people of Sindh who are
strongly opposing the construction of Kalabagh dam. The people of Sindh
have their own apprehensions over the issue as they feel that
construction of dam in Punjab would render the province of Sindh at the
mercy of Punjab. The concerns expressed by the people of Sindh in the
light of their previous experiences. They allege that Punjab does not
allow judicious distribution of water resources and takes away the major
share of the cake.
According to informed sources, in order to off set
the apprehensions of Sindh, legal cover may also be there to ensure
judicious distribution of water among the federating units of the
Experts in power sector were of the opinion that the
construction of high dams especially means to mitigate the adverse
effect of costly fuel imports for thermal power generation in Pakistan.
The oil imports during the current year are likely to exceed $4.5
billion due to record increase in international oil prices. More than 65
percent of power is generated through oil-fired system which has becomes
the costliest way of generating power all around the world. Due to high
oil prices, even the developed countries are shifting towards coal or
other cheaper source of power generation such as hydro power generation.
If the three-four under hand high dams were developed they are estimated
to produce around 10,000 of hydel power which would greatly help to a
drastic cut in exorbitant electricity prices in Pakistan, the experts
Under the policy, the government has decided to
discourage new thermal power projects in Pakistan obviously due to high
cost of fuel causing increase in power generation cost.
It may be mentioned that high dams are the largest
contributor of the economic development of the developed economies of
the day including United States of America, however, large projects are
always opposed by political forces and other pressure groups in almost
every country of the world. It is hoped that a consensual decision would
be preferred to resolve the issue amicably.