Construction of dams may bless us with economic prosperity, surplus food supply, enlightened moderation and political stability

Dec 06 - 12, 2004

Pakistan being an agrarian society is on the verge of an acute water shortage in shadow of impending wheat and energy crisis. It may impart a visible dent on our agricultural production. In present circumstances, wheat production may demonstrates a negative trend of up to 58 percent while other major as well as minor crops would also be sailing in the same boat. South Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan would be under severe drought. For next Rabi crops 2004-05 Pakistan needs 36maf but water availability would be 17maf. At present, tarbela and mangla dams keep 3maf and 2.3maf respectively, in a situation, when there is no chance of ice melting on glaciers, as Indus and Jehlum drive 85 and 40 percent of their waters from glaciers.

Water being lifeblood for agriculture, industry and domestic activities has become a dwindling natural resource on this contemporary globe. Everyone either is well developed or an underdeveloped country is striving hard to harvest and develop new water resources for future needs. Many international organizations like IWMI, Word Watch Institute, UNESCO, IMF, World Bank and FAO have expressed their deep concerns over the scarcity of water and declared it as a major reason for future wars among the world nation. In Pakistan, water availability per capita was 5650 cubic meter in 1956 that has been declined to 1200 cubic meter in 2003-04. This is expected that population bloom that is growing at the rate of 2.5 percent would force it down to the stress quantum that is less then 1000 cubic meter. At one time our agriculture was fed by canal water, but later on growing demand for food, fiber and other agri-commodies partially replace it with tube well water system. The ground water pumage has got weightage from 3.34maf in 1960 to 48-50 maf in the 2003-04. But mismanagement and little know-how about its compatible consumptions have tricked down a lot of ecological threats in forms of soil environment degradation and exhaustion of aquifer. More than 3 million hectare of cultivable lands has been converted into salt affected soil owing to indiscriminate use of brackish tube well water and on the other side water table depletion rate has become one meter per year in our country. Pakistan keeps precious assets of this life sustaining commodity round about 210maf of ground and surface water, from this 105maf is distributed among 19 barrages and 45 main canals that cover a length of 57000km. This water supports more than 16 million hectare of irrigated agriculture with an application efficiency of 50 percent...what a tremendous loss. Again there is water politics among our politicians who are entirely devoid of patriotism and enriched in the personalism, waste 35-40 maf of this lifeblood below kotri barrage. For storage purpose we have three main storage bodies namely, Tarbela, Chashma and Mangla. Sedimentation menace is reducing their storage capacity day by day and it would touch peak value of 6maf equal to large water reservoir in 2010. In this context, this moment is eye-opening to our intelligentsias, intellectuals, generals, politicians and noble beaurocracy that our neighboring countries like India and China have built 4200 and 22,000 large dames (one large dame is a dame with height greater than 15 meter/48ft) since in 1948. But our inefficiency and ignorance is again obvious from the India's bold violation of Indus Water Treaty 1960 signed under the supervision of World Bank. She is fast erecting controversial Baglihar hydro-power project of 450mw over Chenab, wuller barrage over Jehlum and opening her wing for the construction of many other dams on Ravi and Beas to squeeze the remaining lot of these tributaries. But we have been quarreling over Kalabagh dam for the last twenty years. Construction of new dames is vital for a country like Pakistan that has become homeground for multi-colored crises like food shortage, water shortage and political instability. Being an agrarian society, our agriculture sector consumes early 95 percent of total available fresh water that mainly comes from canal water. More than 80 percent area of our country receives an average annual rainfall of less than 15 inches, which is insufficient for sustainable agriculture. But on the other face, our major crops like cotton, wheat, sugarcane, rice and maize are high delta's crops and utilize 85 percent of total water available for irrigated agriculture. Wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, fodder and other crops require 23maf (25 percent), 18maf (19 percent), 17maf (18 percent), 9.5maf (10 percent), 9.49maf (10.2 percen) and 17maf (18 percent) water.

According to a rough estimate our country needs 11,000mw to keep itself alive but its value hardly touches a maximum of 10,000mw. Hydro-power meets 30 percent of our electricity needs. Water shortage has accentuated the pre-existing energy crises further by forcing the hydle power generation down to 55 percent. This has enmeshed not only our industrial potential but also enervated our agriculture sector. If water level in our major reservoir is raised by raising their heights; it may cure our wounds produced by untimely load shedding. Sound management practices like raising water level in our pre-existing buckets may boost electricity supply as 3500mw from Tarbela, 1100mw from Mangla, 1500mw from Ghazi Brootha and 200mw from Chashma. It may liquefy and mobilize our glaciered industry on sustained basis. In the meanwhile, if our so-called lords break their motionless stand over this issue, we would be able to generate 3600mw, 3700mw, and 600mw of electricity and store 7.9, 9.09 and 7maf from Kalabagh, Bhasha and Akhori dams respectively. Only Kalabagh dam would yield 11,500 million units of electric power. The construction of Sakurdo, mund and other possible storage bodies should be done without any delay. Along with completion of these projects attention should be paid to locate sites for building small dams to face this challenge on micro level as construction of dam near Karoonghar Mountains is pre-request to ensure the existence of local life. It is pertinent to reiterate that one school of thought presents a tableau of environmental degradation and taboo the construction of new dam. Of course, there exist few exogenous factors that bring us to home to be serious about the ecology of the area. These fears reflect our inefficiency to deal this matter with solid determination and devotion. By adopting and mobilizing an integrated approach we may burry this crosier situation. It is an irrefutable truth that major flow of water below Kotri is low during July to September, while other months of a year experience almost a sandy view in the Indus. A minimum flow of water can be maintained throughout the year instead of allowing huge volume of water to become a part of sea. Again by building water dykes, problem of sea encroachment, saline-sodic sea water intrusion and environmental degradation can checked by following the countries like Holland that is much below the sea level. Again this minimum flow can be saved and diverted to feed mangroves forest. In this modern world, there is a solution of every thing. Many countries have developed special techniques to settle the coastal life problems. These might be imported and implemented to ensure the future of billions residing along lifeline so-called Indus River of our country. In nutshell, construction of dams may bless us with economic prosperity, surplus food supply, enlightened moderation and political stability. This is the high time for our policy makers to take off their polarized lens and face the stark reality of time in present scenario of WTO and globalization.