CONSTRUCTION OF NEW DAMS

The dams have to come on the ground

By AZAM ALI
June 07 - 13, 2004

The government seems to have a firm opinion for the construction of new dams to face the future requirement of water in view of the growing demand and declining water resources.

In conformity to the policy for sustainable water supply, the Federal Minister for Water and Power, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, has categorically stated that in view of the growing need of water for the agriculture sector which is the mainstay of the national economy, the government is determined to construct new dams.

However, as far as the name of the new dams was concerned it may be described A, B, C dam, however the dams have to come on the ground.

The new dams will be constructed on the basis of the report of parliamentary and technical committees on water resources and consensus among all the four provinces.

Senator Nisar Memon and A.G.N Abbasi are the heads of the parliamentary committee and the technical committee respectively. Both of them belong to the province of Sindh as they are well aware about the water issue especially in the province of Sindh.

At present, the country is confronted with the shortage of water in the rivers due to slow melting of the snow at the mountains. The minister also clarified that in order to overcome the current shortage of water; the water is directly being released in to the rivers instead of diverting towards Tarbela or Mangla Dams. The objective for direct release of water into the rivers is to supply sufficient water to the cotton crop especially in the province of Sindh.

Currently, the Ministry of Water and Power is engaged with the process of capacity building of the existing dams including Mangla, Gomal Zam, Mirani, Sabakzai and Satpara dams which will add 4.44 million acre storage capacity of these projects at an estimated cost of Rs 84 billion. While the newly launched project of Munda Dam has attracted foreign investment worth one billion dollars.

In order to reinforce canal system, work is in progress on new canals namely Greater Thal Canal, Rainee Canal and Kachhi Canal at a cost of Rs81 billion to irrigate 2.65 million acres of land.

System improvement works worth Rs127 billion commenced in all the four provinces such as modernization of barrages, rehabilitation of irrigation system and lining of irrigation channels to save 2.62 million-acre feet of water.

Hydropower projects worth Rs 4 billion namely Khan Khwar, Aliai Khawar, Dubair Khwar, Golen Gol and Jinnah Barrage has been commenced to generate 525mw of affordable hydropower to facilitate reduction in power tariffs.

Despite having a strong agriculture base, Pakistan lacks in effective water management system mainly because of excessive politicization of the agriculture by the fuel lords.

Right from the beginning the agriculture sector is dominated by a strong lobby of rural based politicians who have a strong say in the power corridors who besides serving the party interests have to protect their own interests.

These politicians, in order to remain in the picture, need some issue to play with the gallery. Some of the issues such as Kashmir dispute, construction of Kalabagh Dam, distribution of resources among the provinces are used by the politicians as the tool for their survival in the political world.

Kalabagh Dam issue is one of them. This is one of the issues which are generally used by the politicians while they are out of power. Amazingly, overnight they become the staunch supporter for the construction of Kalabagh Dam, but whenever they are on the other side of the table they start making hue and cry over the construction of the dam. It is worth mention that the previous government have spent over Rs one billion for preparation of the feasibility study of that project, yet it has been made a bone of contention by the political parties without giving a serious thought on the technical recommendations of the experts for construction of that project of vital importance for the country.

Sindh and Balochistan provinces are worst affected and victimized by dam issues, apart from opposing Kalabagh Dam both provincial never tried sincerely for the construction of dams within their provinces at their provincial resources throughout the independence. In a result huge water goes into waste without preservation.

Sindh and Balochistan provinces could have about 100 more dams today if the provincial and national level politicians had knowledge about basic water management system. The politicians never raised voice against upward surge of POL prices, Power and Gas prices, which directly caused living cost going out of the hands from middle class and lower class people.

Dam issue is also life for feudal system in both the provinces, dam issue is opened during specific times on specific political scenario to achieve certain motives and to divert the citizen's attention from sensitive matters.

Foreign funded NGOs are also involved in the dirty game, they arrange protests rallies, and demonstrations and hunger strike but none of them emphasized upon dams in their provinces but opposed government with the threats and demands of resignations. Whenever the politicians were questioned about basic professional Water Management System and the reasons for not making any efforts for Dams in their areas and provinces, they had no answer. This is very interesting that one of the leaders leading protest rally at Karachi Press Club against Kalabagh dam when asked for details of a dam, and the place where he would support to construct the dam, he said no dam should be constructed in any place of the country as that would be disaster for them.