Sep 29 - Oct 12, 2008

Water and Power Development Authority, or WAPDA, as it is popularly known, has been dominating the national economic scene of Pakistan for well over 50 years now. It comes into limelight almost daily in the Media or otherwise, both for its achievements as well as for some of its drawbacks and handicaps. A span of fifty years is a good enough time to have a proper evaluation of an organization to ascertain how far its achievements have come up to the expectations with which it was formed or has it failed to bring about a performance commensurate with the financial support and functional autonomy provided to it.

When WAPDA Ordinance was issued in February 1958, its author Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan (who was then Secretary, Irrigation and Power in the then West Pakistan Government) had, most probably, the Tennessee Valley Authority of USA as the model in his mind, and accordingly, WAPDA was given the following charter of duties:

  • Generation, transmission and distribution of power.
  • Irrigation, water supply and drainage.
  • Prevention of water logging and reclamation of waterlogged and saline lands.
  • Flood control and
  • Inland navigation.

Since then, the Power Distribution among various categories of consumers, which was originally not to be undertaken by WAPDA, was entrusted to it and this, in fact, made the organisation biggest target of criticism.

If I were to be asked a question as to what have been WAPDA's major achievements in the last 50 years, the following four areas distinctly stand out in my mind:

1. United development of water and power resources, thus enforcing the national integration of the four provinces.

2. Rapid power Development.

3. Execution of Indus Basin Projects, and

4. War against Water logging and Salinity.

These high points of WAPDA's performance are discussed briefly in the following lines:


Although WAPDA was assigned only an economic role in the unified development of water and power resources of the then West Pakistan, I am of the firm personal opinion, that WAPDA has played a positive role of political nature viable unit. The above is the result of WAPDA's considerate planning, which from the very first day, has been done on the basis of West Pakistan (now Pakistan) as a one unified economic unit. What we see and experience today, is that the utilization of either water or power resources and the distribution of its benefits among the four provinces are being done without any consideration of "who produces and who uses these."

To illustrate my point, I may add that Tarbela generates the power, which is in NWFP but Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan mostly utilize the power generated at Tarbela, besides the NWFP. Similarly, Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma release the irrigation supplies in crucial winter months which are utilized not only by Punjab but also by Sind, without which the agriculture in Sind would be almost starved particularly in the winter months.

The sui gas is produced in Baluchistan, but is used to generate power at Guddu in Sindh, at Multan and Faisalabad in the Punjab, besides at Quetta. The province of Baluchistan which is connected with the high transmission lines gets power from the National Grid as the power generated at Quetta falls short of its fast growing requirements. In fact, the National Grid is a big blessing for all the Pakistanis alike as it fully covers all the four provinces. What I am trying to convey to the readers by the above examples, is to point out that now, without the Natural Gas of Baluchistan and Sind, without the generation of power at Tarbela, Mangla, Guddu, Multan, Faisalabad, Warsak, without the system of Link Canals and Barrages which run through the heart of Punjab and Sind etc., non of the four provinces can have an independent and viable economic base. I hope the readers will, therefore, agree with me that the biggest role WAPDA has played after its formation is to make all the four provinces inter-dependent on one another and equal beneficiaries of all the natural resources of each province. It is now abundantly clear that the economic survival of each province lies in Pakistan being in one compact unit as it is today.


The second biggest achievement, which has come about due to the formation of WAPDA, is the rapid development of the power sector. Let me first describe as to what was the state of affairs of the power sector when WAPDA took over the management of power distribution in 1959. In whole of Pakistan (except Karachi) there were only about 3,50,000 consumers mostly concentrated in big cities and the total generation capacity was about 119 MW. Today, the total generation capacity exceeds 17,366 MW and all big cities, towns, and a large number of big villages, have the benefit of electricity. The number of consumers has also gone up to over 17.7 million. If one multiplies the number of consumers with a factor of six, i.e. self, wife and four dependents, this means that over 10,64,01,180 persons are benefiting from WAPDA electricity system today outside Karachi. This is more than 60 per cent of the population of Pakistan, against about 5% receiving power in 1959.

How has this rapid increase been possible? I feel WAPDA's ingenuity in planning its power generation schemes in the mountains, on canal falls, in load centers like Faisalabad, and in deserts like Guddu, and taking it across through hundreds and thousands of miles of new transmission lines in every feasible corner of the country, has paid off. Today, the national grid system which is operated by WAPDA, in one of the biggest among the Central grids in the world. WAPDA's national grid takes power from Warsak and Tarbela in the north and brings it down right up to Karachi (when needed) in the south after traversing the entire length and breath of the country over some of the most difficult terrains in the world.


In 1947, the total installed generation capacity stood at meager 31 megawatts (MW). When took over the system in 1959,

it had risen to 119 MW, which now comes to nearly 17366 MW, thus registering 45-fold increase in the span of last 50 years.


Coinciding with increase in generation capacity, WAPDA has also extended its transmission and distribution system to the remote parts of the country, even located in the hilly areas of Baluchistan and NWFP, covering very difficult terrains.

In 1959, the total length of HT & LT transmission lines was about 7000 kms while the number of grid stations was 59 with a total capacity of 2810 MVA. Today length of the lines has crossed the figures of 447349 kms and the number of grid stations has increased to with 601 transmission capacity of more than 12,745 MVA.


In order to bridge the supply-demand gap and do away with the load shedding, WAPDA on its part is taking many corrective measures which include improvement in power plants efficiency, energy loss-reduction through erection of extra high tension lines of 500 KV capacity and replacing old and worn out and overloaded distribution lines and transformers with that of high capacity etc. Efforts are also on to check and control power pilferage and theft through vigilance and surveillance squads.

However, WAPDA alone can not succeed in overcoming the problems. Consumers' cooperation to achieve this end is of a vital importance by way of including in them the habit of refraining from wasteful use of precious electric energy, avoiding switching on unnecessary lights at their premises, doing away with extravagant use of electricity in air-conditioners as and when not required, illuminations to show off which, of course, comes under 'Asraf' and Islam does not allow it. By switching off one bulb, one can help a brother living in a village to have light in his house, and this also cuts down the monthly bill.


Conservation of energy becomes more essential as WAPDA is currently in the process of providing electricity to country's villages as directed by the Government, to improve the socio-economic conditions of more than 70 per cent of country's population, concentrated in rural areas. By and large, their life patterns are characterized by semi-primitive self-sufficiency, where time seems to have stood still for centuries.

For all round national development, it is of utmost importance that the first basic facility of electric lighting be brought to their door-steps in order to draw them into the main-stream of national life. In pursuance of this objective WAPDA has electrified over 125468 villages by now including those located in FATA, recording 170-fold increase since 1959 when the number of electrified villages stood at 609.


Within one year of its formation, WAPDA was entrusted with the task of execution of gigantic Indus Basin Projects as an Agent of the Government of Pakistan. This involved construction within a stipulated time of two huge earthen dams, both among the biggest in the world, five barrages, eight link canals - some of them as big as medium size rivers and a gated siphon.

In the history of Indo-Pak Sub-Continent never before had such huge civil works ever been handled and executed. WAPDA, however, accepted this challenge and with the assistance of a number of foreign consultants and the blessings of the World Bank, was able to push these projects through successfully (some even ahead of the scheduled time), except for the Tarbela.

The execution of Indus Basin Projects in the sixties gave anew dimension to the civil works construction in Pakistan. Through it, Pakistanis gained invaluable experience of working on various aspects of the building of these big dams canals, etc. Through it, hundreds and thousands of Pakistani workers learnt how to operate complex earthmoving and construction machinery. This, in turn, has helped many of them to get lucrative jobs in the Middle Eastern countries and earn valuable foreign exchange for Pakistan. As a chain reaction, a number of industries which supplied their production for IBP projects flourished. Through it, WAPDA was able to develop a reservoir of talent, which is envy to many, an organization in the world today.

Pakistan has one of the biggest irrigation systems in the world. As a result of the execution of Indus Basin Projects, it is now completely independent of whims of the Indian Irrigation engineers for supply of water to Punjab's eastern rivers, which at crucial moments used to cut off supplies in the 50's, thus exposing to disaster the irrigated agriculture in the Southern Punjab and Bahawalpur. This gave rise to mounting tension between the two neighbouring States.

Through these projects, WAPDA was also able to build two big power generation sources at Mangla and Tarble which are contributing 22 per cent of the total power requirements of the National Grid. To sum up, the execution of the Indus Basin Projects by WAPDA has been no mean achievement, and it has been of greatest benefits to Pakistan. Accomplishment of such gigantic project in a period of a little over a decade is acknowledged as an engineering feat.


Other surface water projects completed by WAPDA comprise. 1. Chablat Kas Lift Irrigation Scheme for irrigation of 14,000 acres near Hasan Abdal; 2. Rawal Dam for provision of 20 million gallons of potable water per day to Rawalpindi/Islamabad, and irrigation of 12,000 crop acres of land lying in the vicinity of Rawalpindi;

3. Guddu Barrage for irrigation supplies of 2.9 million acres in Jacobabad, Larkana and Sukkur districts of Sind and Nasirabad district of Baluchistan province, led to an increased in national income of over Rs.300 million through increased agricultural production; 4. Tanda Dam for irrigation of about 3,200 acres in Kohat valley.

The 21,360 feet long and 151 feet high Hub Dam (Karachi Irrigation Project) was also pressed into service in 1983, to supply 104 million gallons of drinking water daily to Karachities and for the industries in Lasbela district of Baluchistan in addition to irrigation 22,000 acres in Karachi and Lasbela districts. Similarly, Khanpur Dam, constructed in Abbottabad district, started supply water in August 1983. This project was completed to provide 131 million gallons of water daily to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Pakistan Ordinance Factory, Wah and industries around Taxila in addition to providing irrigation water to 36,470 acres in Abbottabad, Rawalpindi and Attock districts. Chashma Right Bank Canal Project is irrigating 350,000 acres in D.I. Khan district of NWFP and 220,000 acres in D.G. Khan district of Punjab.


Another significant contribution by WAPDA on the national scene of Pakistan has been its relentless War against salinity and water logging that has already yielded encouraging results. It was WAPDA, which through concentrated observation and effort pin-pointed the gravity of the problem of salinity and water logging soon after its formation in the early sixties. As a result, the Late President Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan asked for the help from the USA Government. A mission led by Dr. J. Wiesner, Scientific Adviser to the then USA President arrived in Pakistan and things started moving rapidly for the eradication of twin menace which was looming ominously on the landscape of Pakistan and was often described as a "Skin Cancer of our Fertile Land".

The "Winter Mission" was followed by a detailed study and an investigation report by an eminent American Scientist, Dr.Roger Rovelle. WAPDA also started working in 1960 on its first Salinity Control and Reclamation Project No. 1 (SCARP-I) in the Rachna Doab covering an area of two million acres in the once fertile Sheikhupura's rice growing area.

The execution of the SCARP-I in Rachna Doab by 1962, which involved sinking of about 2100 deep tube wells, gave new hopes to the land owners of Pakistan that the problem of Salinity and Water logging could overcome to the nation's benefit, if proper attention was paid to it and adequate finances earmarked for the purpose. The 64 SCARPS so far completed by WAPDA have benefited about 18.32 million acres of land in the provinces of Punjab, Sind and NWFP.

WAPDA efforts in this direction have already produced results. As against 100,000 acres that we were reportedly losing annually to this twin menace, the latest surveys and the aerial photography indicate that about 3,00,000 acres are now being put back into cultivation annually. Thus, the big news for the nation is that the trend has at long last been reversed. WAPDA's SCARP programme has raised new hopes for the control of the twin menace which had gathered menacing proportions as a result of the unlined irrigation system, first introduced in this part of Sub-Continent during the last 80 years.


Now WAPDA has formulated a comprehensive National Water Resource and Hydropwer Development Programme-VISION 2025, five Mega Hydropower Projects have been announced by President of Pakistan which are to be completed by 2016 with generation capacity of 9,500 MW. Two projects are ready for awarding construction works whereas three projects are in the stage of feasibility studies and preparation of tender documents.

WAPDA has undertaken construction work on Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project, the ground breaking was held in February 2008. The project is located in the vicinity of Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). The project envisages the diversion of the Neelum River through tunnels at Nauseri 41 km upstream of Muzaffarabad and out falling in the Jhelum River. The project is located 177 km from Islamabad. The project has 969 MW installed capacity and will generate 5.15 billion KWh of annual energy. The project is expected to be completed in year 2016.

Diamer Basha Dam project having total capacity of 4500 MW will produce annual energy of 16.7 billion KWh. The project has a live storage of 7.9 billion m3. The expected year of commission is 2016 with an approximate cost of US$ 9.5 billion.

WAPDA is vigorously carrying out feasibility studies and engineering designs for various hydropower projects with accumulative generation capacity of more than 25000 MW and most of these studies are at an advanced stage of their completion. These studies which are under way include Bunji (5400 MW) & Kohala (1100 MW). After the completion of these projects the installed capacity is expected to be around 42000 MW by the end of year 2016. Pakistan has been blessed with ample water resource but could develop only 13 per cent storage capacity of the annual flow of its rivers, and that too are fast depleting due to sedimentation. The journey to develop more and more water reservoirs and tapping the hydro potential is continued. WAPDA, through its continuous endeavours in the field of water and power is a major source of prosperity in Pakistan.