Apr 06 - 12, 2009

Indus river, one of the mightiest rivers in the world, is the major river in Pakistan. Rest of the four major rivers in Pakistan also fall in the Indus before it finally meets the Arabian Sea. There is already a large dam on the Indus "Tarbela'" the world's largest earth and rock filled dam (485 feet high and 9,000 feet long). It was completed in 1974. During the high reservoir period, the dam can generate 3,714 MW, due to a 15 percent permissible overloading. It comes to about 1,350 MW in the lean winter period. Second major Dam of Pakistan is "Mangla". Construction of the Mangla Dam on the Jhelum River started in 1962 and it was completed five years later. During the summer, the dam's high reservoir level can generate 1,150 megawatts of power. The capacity comes down to about 500 MW in winter.

By the year 2009 or 2010 Pakistan will have a water short fall of over six million acre feet which is equal to water stored in Mangla Dam and this shortage will continue to increase with every passing year and the biggest sufferer will be the province of Sindh. The depleting capacity of the existing water reservoirs call for at least one dam like Kalabagh, Bhasha or Bunji every 10 years. Government has been neglecting this dire requirement and did not construct any new dam during the last 30 years and the country is today suffering for this criminal neglect in the form of drought and acute water shortage throughout the country specially Sindh and Balochistan.

Punjab Province has plenty of sweet sub soil water and in case of shortage, it can meet its requirement by sinking more tubwells. However, Sindh has brackish sub soil water, which cannot be used for irrigation purposes. The water shortage in province will be much more acute in the coming years and this disaster can be averted only by undertaking construction of new dams on warfooting. The availability of water in the country is reducing sharply and remained annually 1250 litres per person, therefore, dams are essential for the economy. A huge quantity of water is wasted and drained into the sea. This can only be preserved through dams.

Pakistan urgently needs to build more dams to boost the country's water-storage capacity and to avoid drought condition. The Kalabagh Dam will generate Pakistan's largest amount of electricity, Kalabagh will have an installed capacity of 2,400 MW initially and 3,600 MW ultimately. Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority estimates that annual electricity generated at Kalabagh will be 20 million barrels of oil equivalent, saving fuel that would otherwise be needed to produce thermal power. In 2005, the total project cost, including price escalation and interest during construction, was estimated at $6.1 billion, with construction expected to take six years or so.

It is unfortunate that projects of strategic importance have fallen prey to provincialism every moment we are losing precious water resources, which could be harnessed to lower poverty all over Pakistan. If the government takes a decision right now to go ahead with the construction of the dam, it will be completed in the year 2010, by which time the water shortage in the country will rise to 6 million acre-feet, and by the year 2014 or 2015 the shortage will go up to 8 million to 10 million acre-feet.

The feasibility study of Kalabagh Dam was prepared long ago and lot of preliminary work has already been done on the project. Its construction can be started in few months hoping to complete it by 2009/2010. In the meanwhile work on feasibilities of Bhasha and Nunji should be taken with a plan of action to complete them by 2015 and 2020 respectively. If we want to meet the water requirements of next fifty years, we will have to build all these dams besides identifying new sites.

Kalabagh dam is a bone of contention in Pakistan, giving rise to inter-provincial rifts over water management. The dam has been proposed for a long time, but the objections from all provinces have made it an extremely sensitive political issue. Everyone agrees on the need for water reservoirs and management, as the region will soon face an imminent water shortage. The issue is still hot and burning with no obvious solution in sight, but die-hards stick to "musts" and "must-not".

There is a great need for building dams in the country to avoid drought like situation, so new dams should be built. "The new government should work on war footings for controlling water-shortage and construct dams".