Substantiated with the reports of
technical experts and parliamentary committee on water resources recommending
the construction of Kalabagh, Bhasha and Skurdu dams on urgent basis, President
Musharraf considers high dams including Kalabagh dam as being in the supreme
interest of the country.
The parliamentary committee and
technical committee headed by eminent people of Sindh domicile have recommended
construction of major water reservoirs including Kalabagh dam to meet the
growing water and power needs of the country.
President said, "I am convinced
that the construction of new reservoirs is a national imperative and can no more
be ignored for any expediency". He said he would not only construct the
Kalabagh during his tenure but also provide any kind of guarantees, even
constitutional safeguards to remove the reservations of Sindh in this respect.
Not only Kalabagh on which work can be started without any delay, we will have
to build three more mega dams by 2025 to avert a catastrophic water famine, the
After six years of technical
investigations, deliberations with experts as well as political forces across
the country, President Pervez Musharraf appears to have made up his mind to give
the green light for the construction of Kalabagh dam, hopefully with
simultaneous approval for Bhasha as well Akhori and Skardu dams.
With the overwhelming endorsement of
Kalabagh as the most suitable site for the construction of a big water reservoir
by the Inter-provincial Technical Committee on Water Resources formed by the
President, the way has been cleared for the government to undertake the work at
the earliest possible time. The Abbasi committee's seven to one verdict, with
the dissenting member being only one of the two who represented the Sindh
province should also make it easier for political leaders of disagreeing
provinces to shed their reservations about the project on which, the committee
believes, the construction work can begin within six months to a year. It would
take six to seven years to complete, provide storage for 6.1 million-acre feet
of water and generate up to 3600MW of electricity. On the other hand, Bhasha's
feasibility study and the required infrastructure would not be ready before six
years and the actual work cannot commence till then.
The committee's report goes into
convincing details for giving priority to Kalabagh over Bhasha and Skardu dams,
both of which it also favors for construction afterwards. With the hindsight
provided by the recent earthquake and the location of Bhasha on a seismic
faulting, the project would need careful study and is the second viable option.
Kalabagh would have the least environmental, resettlement and logistic problems.
It is the only project from where a right bank irrigation canal for Dera Ismail
Khan would irrigate 500,000 acres of the NWFP by gravity flow, and a left bank
canal for central Punjab, which is the only possible provision for replacing
Mangla dam's supplies when it ultimately silts up.
These observations, along with the
statistics of the total flow of the Indus Basin irrigation system, the capacity
of available and future storages and the quantity of water at present passing
down to the sea, should provide the government with sufficient data to bring
round dissenting politicians. According to available information, the Indus
River brings down from the mountains 90maf and the Chenab and Jhelum around
45maf. International standards demand an overall storage capacity of 54maf. As
against this, the existing capacity is just 20maf and on an average 35maf is
allowed to go waste to the sea. Not that these figures were not known before,
but their acknowledgement by a high powered technical committee would lend them
Discord on sharing water is not
uncommon between nations as well as between provinces within a country. History
is replete with wars having been fought over water. International laws were thus
evolved to peacefully settle the water sharing problems between upper and lower
riparian regions. Across our eastern border, only court interventions settled
the disputes. In Pakistan also, issue of water sharing hits a sensitive nerve.
Misgivings and complaints are voiced by the lower riparian province for not
getting its legally due share of water.
A basic issue of life that needs to be
decided on the basis of technical and financial analysis, due to misgivings and
mistrust is embroiled in emotional and political controversy. Unfortunately,
politicians in rural Sindh have turned Kalabagh into "a do or die
issue." This is precisely the reason that for 30 years no new dams have
been constructed and now the country is faced with a nine million acre feet
shortage. This will rise to 30 million acre feet by 2025 if new storage is not
built, the President warned.
New storage is indeed needed to
conserve water during the high flow period for utilization during the dry
months. The debate is about where the storages need to be constructed and which
dam has to be constructed first. The four places identified for mega dams
are" Kalabagh; Bhasha; Akhori and Skardu. Punjab insists on Kalagabh as it
would have the capacity to hold 90 million-acre feet, followed by Bhasha with a
capacity of 50 million-acre feet. Secondly, the technical drawings of Kalagagh
are complete and in case work starts next year construction of the dam can be
completed by 2012. The technical drawings of Bhasha are yet to start and the
earliest it can be completed would be 2016.
Ever since he took office, the
President has been working to stress the importance of the issue of new
reservoirs. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz too has stressed the importance of dams
and has been working to forge a consensus among all the four provinces on this
The primary reason why there is a need
for such reservoirs is the rapid rise in population and the need to grow more
crops. There is also an acute need for electricity to satisfy growing demands
from industry and domestic consumers. Violating the Indus Waters Treaty, India
has illegally started construction of dams on the rivers Chenab, Jhelum and
Neelum to fulfill its water and energy needs that could reduce Pakistan to a
barren desert. Because Pakistan has been slow in constructing, it has been
unable to launch any hydroelectric projects to generate electricity. The private
electric companies, meanwhile, have been providing highly expensive power much
to the chagrin of consumers. This in turn has created impediments to the
country's industrial development. Experts believe that if no new dam is built,
there will be a shortage of some 20 MAF of water by the year 2020. Meanwhile,
the storage capacity of the Mangla and Tarbela dams is rapidly depleting.
While no new dam project has been
undertaken in 30 years, there has also been no effort to stop the wastage of
water in canals, although the present government has taken the important step of
spending 77 billion rupees on lining of canals. The World Bank and other foreign
consultants have declared the Kalagabh dam as a feasible and essential option.
In fact, several crores of rupees have already been spent on initial work.
Meanwhile, the President has been
working hard to take all the four provinces into confidence and remove their
reservations on this count. He has assured Sindh that it will not only receive
its fair share under the 1991 water accord but has also said that the province
will receive water for the Rabi and Kharif seasons six to eight weeks earlier.
The construction of dams will also help produce 15,000 megawatts of electricity.
The president also told the people's representatives and others that he would
never take any step that went against the interests of Sindh. The majority of
Sindh's population depends on agriculture for its livelihood and the
construction of new dams will benefit this section the most. It is therefore
essential that the representatives and leaders of public opinion in the province
accept the President's assurances and a work to remove obstacles in the path of
building new dams. The people of the NWFP had also once objected to the Kalabagh
dam because they believed it would submerge some cities, such as Nowshera.
However, certain technical changes have been made in the dam's design ensuring
this would not happen.
The people of Sindh should not dismiss
the views of former World Bank officials and heads of Wapda such as Shamsul Mulk
and other experts as reflecting ethnic, provincial or linguistic prejudices. The
World Bank would not have agreed to fund the project and sink its investment
were it not technically feasible.
The majority of the people of the
country believe that the fears and suspicions that the issue of the Kalabagh dam
has aroused should be settled on the basis of dialogue and consensus. The manner
in which President Musharraf has worked to argue the case for the dam suggests
that he will not only succeed in persuading people of the need for building this
dam but will also gain their active support for it. Projects of this nature will
not only strengthen the agriculture sector but will also boost industrial
production and generate employment. The availability of cheap electricity will
help boost Pakistan's exports and increase competitiveness. It will speed up the
process of agricultural and industrial self-reliance.
The manner in which the President has
launched a drive to convince people of the importance of building new reservoirs
and removing their reservations is impressive and unprecedented. It is hoped
that the nation will support him in this drive for the sake of the welfare and
prosperity of future generations.