By the year 2012 the per capita availability of water in Pakistan would squeeze to below 1000 cusecs

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Feb 06 - 12, 2006

The country is set to face water crisis from the year 2012 and the federal government has decided to kick-off construction of big dams starting from Bhasha dam that would take much more time than the much-debated Kalabagh dam.

Bhasha dam's construction is expected to take at least 10 to 12 years (from 2006 to 2016 or 2018) while Kalabagh dam could be completed in six years.

Details obtained by The PAGE revealed that by the year 2012 the per capita availability of water in Pakistan would squeeze to below 1000 cusecs meters, a mark that heralds water scarcity or water crisis according to international standards.

In 1950 the per capita water availability stood at 5260 cusecs meters that had come down to 1200 cusecs meters by 2005 and it would further shrink as long as new mega water reservoirs are not speedily completed.

Official documents point out that Bhasha dam's construction could take a minimum of 10 to 12 years while Kalabagh could be constructed in six years, from 2006-2012 and it (KBD) was the most suitable, engineered and the safest site to overcome upcoming water shortage in the shortest possible time.

After the approval of federal cabinet, President Pervez Musharraf recently announced the launching of Bhasha dam's construction with the pledge that all the big dams including that of Kalabagh would be completed by the year 2016.

He, however, did not reveal any further details about the much-debated Kalabagh dam, disappointing the water sector experts, economists, business community and general public in the country, who have been expecting the programme of building mega dams would start from KBD.

The proposed Basha dam is 281 meters high and 990 meters long having a gross storage capacity of 9.04 MAF and live capacity of 7.30 MAF. The project can generate up to 4500 MW electricity.

Its construction would lead to the resettlement of 24,350 people, residing in 32 villages in the proposed location of the project. The reservoir would also submerge 110 kilometers of Karakorum highway.

The federal government had worked out Rs 9.2 billion plan for upgradation and relocation of KKH, from Havelian to dam's site while relocation reaches from Sazin to Raikot bridge which would also cost Rs 14.30 billion.

In Pakistan 77.1 million acres are suitable for cultivation out of which only 54.5 million acres are being brought under cultivation while remaining 22 million acres could also be cultivated after the construction of new dams.

The storage capacity of the existing water reservoirs had already declined to 13.48 million-acre feet by 2004 from their original capacity of 18.37 MAF.

By the year 2012 the loss to storage capacity of Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma would further increase to 6.37 MAF (35 per cent of the capacity) and 7.98 MAF (43 per cent of capacity) by the year 2025.

The construction of Kalabagh dam from this year could have helped the government to meet the growing requirement of water by the year 2012, but the decision to start Bhasha dam could lead the country towards water crisis, as long as the construction of the required storage capacity is not completed.

According to official documents, before the start of construction of Bhasha reservoir, at least six to eight years are needed to complete all kinds of extensive studies, research, a comprehensive investigation on its high seismic risk location and resettlement of the inhabitants of the area.

After the completion of this process, another six years would be needed to complete the entire project, that too, if the things moved smoothly and in line with the originally conceived plan.

Bhasha dam is located on the RiverIndus, about 200 miles upstream Tarbela dam and just downstream Chilas town. Its catchment area is beyond the range of monsoons. Average annual flow of Indus there is 50 MAF, which is entirely the snow-melt water.

In Vision 2025, WAPDA has estimated its total cost of Rs 400 billion ($6.50 billion), but the World Bank and WAPDA's joint Review Panel of Experts, appointed in 1988, have estimated its cost beyond $8 billion, keeping in view price hike and inflation since 1988.

In the backdrop of recent devastating earthquake of October 8, the experts say that the completion of the project could linger on to around 12 years. Because, they said, the technical experts would have to examine and investigate in a precise manner the high seismic risk of the project.

The dam is located in a highly seismic area of Kohistan, famous for severe landsliding. The required storage-lake of the project will submerge the Chilas Valley and the Chilas Town. It will submerge about 140-km of Karakorum Highway (KKH) and will require its relocation on more difficult terrain.

Meanwhile, it will further need regradation of 310-km of approach road which would also need substantial widening and improvement before the start of construction on the main dam for transport of heavy-moving, construction and power house machinery.

Two circuits of 500-KV transmission lines would also be needed over long and difficult stretches of seismically active hilly region for connectivity with the National Power Grid, the nearest point being Tarbela.

As compared to Kalabagh dam project, Bhasha dam has much severer and difficult technical, environmental, resettlement and social problems due to barren and inaccessible terrain.

According to experts, the existing three water reservoirs _ Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma would further lose their storage capacity in the coming decade.

Tarbela reservoir that was built in 1976 with original storage capacity of 11.62 million-acre feet has lost its capacity to the tune of 2.748 MAF or 24 per cent of its original capacity. And by the year 2010 the expected capacity loss to Tarbela had been estimated at 3.951 MAF or 34 per cent of its capacity.

Mangla dam was constructed in 1967, having 5.88 MAF capacity. It had already lost 1.157 MAF or 20 per cent of its capacity by the year 2000 and this loss would extend to 1.51 per cent or 26 per cent of the total capacity by the year 2010.

Chashma reservoir was completed in 1971 with 0.87 MAF storage capacity. By the year 2000, its storage capacity has squeezed to 0.481 per cent or by 55 per cent and it will further shrink in the years to come.

Pakistan's total water storage capacity was 18.37 MAF and by the year 2010 the reservoirs' storage capacity will lose 5.942 MAF, 32 per cent of the capacity.

Storage of river water in a large reservoir is vital for the survival of Pakistan. No political party seems to question this need. Indeed the objections raised by politicians relate specifically to the construction of Kalabagh dam which now heads the government's priority list. This dam will not only cover the loss of capacity at Tarbela and Mangla but will also provide additional storage and cheap power generation.

While the parties in the opposition have raised considerable hue and cry against Kalabagh, they appear to be in total agreement on the need for Bhasha dam and this view is also vehemently advocated by the NWFP. While these leaders as well as the parliamentary committee speak of a consensus on Bhasha amongst all stakeholders, they forget to even consult the people of the Northern Areas who will bear the consequences of their valleys being flooded. Bhasha dam will flood Chilas in its entirety and displace the Shina-speaking inhabitants of this valley. Due to the region's mountainous terrain, there is also no space available for the relocation of these people who have a distinct and unique culture.

Equally callously, the opposition parties are quick to propose the construction of Skardu dam which will flood yet another valley. Here too there is no solution in sight for resettlement. These leaders are worried about the possible flooding of some areas in the NWFP and waterlogging in Nowshera and Peshawar, but fail to spare a thought for the misery that will be heaped on the uprooted people of the two valleys who will have nowhere to go.

The enthusiasm of the NWFP can be attributed to the perception that it will receive the fruits of power generation at Bhasha in the form of royalties, simply because the designers have located the generation room in the Frontier. This is based on an erroneous interpretation of Article 161(2) which states that "The net profit earned by the Federal Government or any undertaking established or administered by the Federal Government from the bulk generation of power at a hydroelectric station shall be paid to the Province in which the hydroelectric station is situated."

To avert yet another political controversy, two issues need timely consideration by the federal government before Bhasha dam is taken in hand. Defining the term 'hydroelectric station' is crucial to removing confusion and potential bad blood. If it means the generation room as the NWFP engineers would like us to believe and not the entire structure including the embankment, lake and tunnels, the rights of the people who are going to lose their homes and lands must be protected. For the loss of an entire valley, the Northern Areas should receive adequate security in the shape of constitutionally guaranteed compensation.

The second issue is historical and concerns the artificial inclusion in the NWFP of an area south of Bhasha dam. In his book History of Northern Areas of Pakistan, globally renowned scholar Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani refers to two documents that shed light on the status of this area. One is a letter dated February 24, 1913 from S M Fraser, Resident in Kashmir, to Lt Colonel George Roose-Kepple, Chief Commissioner of Peshawar. The other is a letter from the Resident to Colonel C P Gunter, Director of Frontier Circle, Survey of India, dated January 12, 1928. The letter to the Survey of India states:

"The territory comprised within the Gilgit Agency falls in three categories - viz.

1. Kashmir state territory, i.e. Gilgit Wazarat, comprising Gilgit Tehsil (including Bunji with its Niabat of Astore).

2. The political districts, i.e. Hunza, Punial, Yasin, Kuh-Gizar, Ishakoman and the republic of Chilas.

3. Un-administered area, i.e. Darel, Tengir, Kandia (Killi), Jalkot, Shatial and Harban."

Professor Dani writes: "This position remained until 1947 and even later in 1950, when with the constitution of Kohistan district the area was separated from Gilgit Agency." Based on these documented historical facts, the entire Bhasha dam area including the site of the generation room is well and truly a part of the Northern Areas, which in all fairness is entitled to receive royalties on the bulk generation of power from this dam.

The demand of the people of the Northern Areas for royalty on power generation is based on the principles of natural justice, accurate interpretation of relevant constitutional provisions and the fact that that the inhabitants of the region will suffer dislocation due to the construction of the dam. This issue must be addressed now and a solution found to the satisfaction of the people of the Northern Areas.

There is yet another aspect that is fundamental to the location of this project - the status of the Northern Areas. It is the stand of the Kashmir Affairs & Northern Affairs (KANA) Division and the Foreign Office (FO) that the Northern Areas are not part of the Pakistan. The FO, for its part, continues to harp on the establishment of United States of Kashmir, of which the Northern Areas will presumably be a unit. It has been stated time and again by the people of this area that they have nothing to do with Kashmir and have joined Pakistan of their own free will after fighting difficult and long-drawn battles with the Dogra army. The linkage with the Kashmir dispute, they maintain, has no justification. They voted for Pakistan, and if there is a plebiscite their vote for Pakistan should be taken for granted. If KANA Division and the FO, due to their incompetence or a bureaucratic approach to a historical issue, have failed to decide that this area is a part of Pakistan this should be done now. The FO's suicidal push to include this area in a future United States of Kashmir has serious repercussions for Pakistan. The country's biggest reservoir and lifeline cannot be allowed to be situated in a weak and unstable political entity. It is therefore vital that the constitutional status of this area is settled once for all and this area is integrated in Pakistan with representation in the National Assembly and Senate and its own provincial set-up. Against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding Kalabagh dam, we need this decision urgently and now. Any further delay in addressing this vital issue will fatally undermine the security of Pakistan.

If the past performance of KANA and the FO is any indication, it is likely that nothing will be done in this regard. As the area is in political limbo without any self-governance, the allocation of resources in the shape of royalties to KANA division will not directly benefit the people of the area, who will bear the consequences of the construction of Bhasha dam. It would be appropriate if a mechanism is devised whereby the benefits reach to the people; one option could be providing electricity at cost. This would also help reverse the trend of cutting of trees for heating and cooking, a development that will in turn result in increased forestation of the catchment area of the Indus, halting soil erosion and prolonging the life of the dam. This factor alone will offset the cost of providing power at cost to the area. The difference in the special electricity tariff for the people of the area can be deducted from the royalties from power generation.

The people of the Northern Areas will once again accept a decision that is in the national interest and willingly sacrifice their valleys, but the federation must address their concerns and protect their genuine rights. No one at the ministerial level will come to their rescue. The people of this area therefore look to the president for his personal intervention. In the din of the protest against Kalabagh, the due rights of the Northern Areas should not fall by the wayside.


Dams construction: WAPDA rules out financial constraints

Dispelling the impression that Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) may face any financial constraints while going for the mega projects, Chairman WAPDA Tariq Hameed has said that the authority can easily manage financial arrangement for the mega water and power schemes.

He told PAGE that tender for upgradation of Thakot Bridge located on Indus River would be floated by the end of the month whereas the work on the establishment of site offices is in full swing.

Answering a query of procurement of 38 megawatt power from Iran under a new three year contract, he said that border villages of Balochistan which are very close to Iran are being supplied this power through Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO).

He said that WAPDA has allowed all the power distribution companies to obtain loans on soft terms from commercial banks for their development projects. He said NTDC obtained Rs 9 billion loans for the improvement of the system during the first seven months of the current fiscal.

Earlier speaking at a seminar on "Electric Power Stability in Pakistan" held under the aegis of Institution of Engineering Pakistan, he said WAPDA had been making all out efforts to sustain the power growth rate in the country for meeting the ever increasing demand of industrial and agricultural sectors across the country. He said "although at the moment, we have 1000 to 1500 Megawatt surplus power supply but its demand will continue to swell gradually".

He said that Bhasha would cost 6.5 billion dollars whereas Munda's cost might go up to 1.1 billion dollars. He said Bhasha would generate 4,500 megawatt power with a water storage capacity of 7 million acre feet whereas Munda would have the capacity of 740 megawatt in addition to 0.7 million acre feet water storage.

Tariq Hameed said that WAPDA was prepared to provide best possible service to the nation by executing power and water projects which would be proved as salvation to national economy, progress, prosperity and development.

He said WAPDA was spending Rs 14 billion on different on-going power and water projects during the current fiscal year. WAPDA, he added, was ready all the way to start work on Bhasha and Munda dams.

The WAPDA chief said that all the 2800 affectees of Bhasha dam will be compensated properly well in time and accommodated about two to three kilometer away from the present place of displacement.

Member (Power) WAPDA Muhammad Anwar Khalid while responding to a question said that negotiations were underway for further import of 100 megawatt power from Iran for Gwadar. He hoped that the on-going talks between the two country will yield positive results.