WATER: NEW DAMS AND RESERVOIRS NEEDED

According to WAPDA assessment Pakistan would become an extremely water short country by 2012

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Apr 05 - 11, 2004

The construction of new dams and water reservoirs is of vital importance to meet our growing demand of electricity at affordable cost and water supply for our land irrigation system as the storage capacity of Terbala Dam is decreasing with every passing day because of silting process.

Out of the 3 big potential water dams, Kala Bagh Basha and Katzara (Skurdu) which on completion, can adequately meet our water and electricity requirements for the next 50 years; feasibility of only Kala Bagh is ready for the last many years. Work is in progress in case of Basha while Katzara is still a dream. There is no dearth of funds to finance these gigantic projects as the World Bank has already offered up to $10 billion in soft loans for water and power sector. It seems that despite its best efforts the present government has not been able to build a consensus on Kala Bagh, which has become highly politicized issue hampering its construction.

Last year, President Pervez Musharaf, with some experts, undertook tours of Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP and had detailed discussion with politicians opposing Kala Bagh Dam and took pains to convince them of its colossal advantage for country's agriculture and power generation requirements. While inaugurating the first turbine of Ghazi Brotha project in September last, the President declared that Kala Bagh and Basha dams will have to be built in order to provide water to our farmers and electricity to our masses at on affordable cost. ''These dams will have to be constructed at every cost'' he declared adding ''we will prevail upon elements who are politicizing to accomplish our mission". The pledge has, however, remained unfulfilled so far,

A parliamentary committee on water resources, headed by Senator Nisar Memon was setup by the federal government to develop a national irrigation water strategy with national consensus. This committee also could not make any headway as far as developing a consensus on Kala Bagh. On the other hand the NWFP Provincial Assembly dominated by MMA an ally of Jamali's federal government has passed a resolution recommending that the idea of Kala Bagh may be abandoned for the time being and instead construction on Basha Dam be started on a fast track basis.

The country should be grateful to President Pervez Musharraf who through his personal efforts not only expedited completion of Ghazi Brotha but initiated over a dozen small dams and water reservoirs to be completed within the next three years on a cost of Rs.35 billion which would support water and electricity supply to some extent.

Giving details of these projects the Minister for Water & Power Aftab Ahmed Sherpao told newsmen recently in Islamabad that WAPDA was implementing a number of projects in water and power sector at a cost of Rs. 56 billion.

He said that Kachi canal at an estimated cost of Rs. 31.2 billion would be ready by June 2007. It will irrigate 0.713 million mega project Mirani Dam will also be ready by June 2007 with an irrigation capacity of 35200 acres land in Mekran. It will also meet drinking and commercial requirements of Gwadar port. The third major project is Sabazai Dam in Zhob district, which would be ready in December 2005 and will irrigate 6680 acres barren land. It will cost Rs.1.01 billion. He said 45% of the total PSDP of the Federal Government has been reserved for water and power sector.

Aftab Sherpao further informed that ECNEC has approved Right Bank Outfall Drain 3 projects for clearing saline water from Patfeeder command area. The project will cost Rs. 4.5 billion. Besides, Balochistan which had earlier opted out from National Drain Programme has now been brought back and under this programme Rs. 2.5 billion would be invested in the province.

The Federal Government has allocated Rs. 5 billion for lining of canals and distributors in Balochistan for water conservation and preventing water-logging. ECNEC has also approved Patfeeder Extension at a cost of Rs. 2.2 billion, he added. The other projects in Balochistan included Flood protection (Rs 288 million), ground water recharging (Rs. 436 million) and bill torrents protection in Mari Bugti area (Rs. 125 million). Besides check and delay action dams will be constructed in the province for which Japanese Government has given commitment for 30 million dollars. In the power sector, the Federal Minister informed that electricity to 169 villages has been supplied under Khushal Pakistan Programme while work for 29 villages was underway. The total cost is Rs.189 million. Under Tamir-e-Pakistan programme 101 villages would be electrified at a cost of Rs. 69.3 million of which work in 149 villages had since been completed.

The WAPDA vision 2025 envisages construction of Kala Bagh Dam to overcome water shortage feared during the next 10 years in the country. According to WAPDA assessment, Pakistan would become an extremely water short country by 2012 with per capita water availability of only 1000 cm which will go down further 885 cm by 2020. WAPDA recently announced its readiness to commence construction of Kala Bagh this (2004) year to be completed by 2010 and on Basha on 2006 to be completed by 2013. These two mega projects will cost $ 5 billion each. It will add to our electricity by about 8000 megawatt at a low cost and enhance country's water supply by about 30 percent. World Bank offer to finance 2 mega projects is being seriously considered and the government may accept the offer provided it is made under the international development assistance terms which carry an interact rate of about 1.5 to 2 percent.