NEW DAMS VITAL FOR SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY OF FOODS

AMANULLAH BASHAR
June 15 - 21, 2009

In the face of current economic crisis which is deepening further due to the worsening law and order situation as well as declining exports which dropped 5 percent during FY 2009, it is the time for Pakistan to capitalize on the agriculture sector which has the potential not only to meet the food requirement of the growing population of 170 million plus as well as steer out the economy from hot waters.

In order to achieve that cherished goal of capitalizing on the agriculture resources the first and foremost priority is to build and revamp the water reservoirs as the existing ones are losing fast their capacities. It is learnt that Tarbela, Mangla and Chasma have lost their capacities estimated to the tune of 5,000,000 acre feet primarily due to sedimentation. The construction of new dams has become unavoidable for Pakistan. According to an estimate the loss of capacity of the existing dams would increase to 6000,000 acre within next three years posing an alarming threat for the agriculture sector the mainstay of the national economy. It may be recalled that Tarbela Dam was commissioned in 1976 since then no considerable capacity has been added to keep up supplies for irrigation.

In this backdrop the decision to construct Diamer Basha Dam Project is the right one in the right direction. It is said that Bhasha when completed would ensure availability of about 6,400,000 acre feet (7.89◊109 m3), annual surface face water storage for supplementing irrigation supplies during low flow periods. Bhasha will help harnessing of renewable sources of clean and cheap energy through installed capacity of 4500 MW.

IRRITANTS

The international bids for Diamer Bhasha dam project one of the world's largest hydro-electric dams to be built at a price tag of $12.60 billion have activated the elements of vested interest having a habit or assignment from some quarters to oppose projects of vital importance.

It is unfortunate that whenever Pakistan initiates any national project to strengthen its economic fundamentals, hue and cry from different quarters of vested interests starts opposing the projects like nuclear power, IPI gas pipeline, Gwadar port, Tarbela, Kalabagh dam, Pakistan Steel and many other projects.

Some quarters have started raising strange apprehensions such as the reservoir would flood 100 kilometers of the Karakoram highway. 27-30 villages and 1,500 acres of farmland would be inundated and close to 35,000 people would be displaced, without realizing the fact that whenever such international level projects are designed the government has to watch and take care of all possible risks.

It is also said that the reservoir could put the cultural heritage at risk as the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam consists of a vast collection of ancient rock carvings. In early 2008, it was reported that Buddhist artifacts, possibly numbering in the thousands, have been recovered at the site of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.

The project is located in a mountainous, earthquake-prone area and there are engineering challenges. The site is reportedly in a seismic zone where there are signs of volcanic activity.

It is interesting to recall that a few years back, one NGO had created scene over the development of a gas field discovered some 60km away from Karachi alongside the superhighway. The NGO said that the development of this gas field would harm the wildlife and vegetation around the field. The operators of that field however arranged a media tour to the spot which was found totally deserted place where only lizards could be seen. The NGO had declared those lizards as wildlife.

Another interesting story with hat gas field was the overnight mushrooming of huts by a strong Wadera who claimed that gas field area was a century old village and successfully managed to cash on that self created village as the exploration company had no option but to please them to settle down the issue.

Similarly, people either against the economic sovereignty of this country or having motives for personal gains have started looking at the darker side of Bhasha dam of which detailed engineering designs and tender documents were completed by German consultants Lahmeyer International in 2008.

The National Economic Council has approved US$1.5billion toward the construction of the dam. These funds are earmarked for land acquisition. Wapda estimates total land acquisition and re-settlement cost of Rs176 billion. The government is likely to allocate up to Rs30billion (US$375mn) to the Diamer-Bhasha dam project in the upcoming Federal Budget 2009-10.

NESTLE TRAINS FEMALE FARMERS

AMANULLAH BASHAR

Nestle Pakistan has taken initiative of providing training to female farmers, which is certainly bound to produce positive results not only in quality produce but also save wastage of agriculture products, which is on the higher side in Pakistan.

Yet another area so far neglected is the proper orientation of female cotton pickers to save cotton from contamination. It is important to note that it is the contamination, which mars the quality of cotton produced in Pakistan. Proper training in cotton picking can add value both to cotton volume and value.

The first Women Farmers batch of 25 trainees has been graduated from NestlÈ Pakistan's Sarsabz Training Farm under the SDC - NestlÈ Farmer Training program.

Women graduates completed a training course on best farm practices on dairy and livestock, and were awarded certificates at a simple ceremony held at the Sarsabz farm near Okara. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Johan De Wet, Training and Farm Manager, Sarsabz congratulated the women farmers on successful completion of the training and highlighted the importance of such training programs. He also expressed his gratitude to the participants and the trainers. This is a pioneer initiative by NestlÈ Pakistan and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to train and encourage women dairy farmers for becoming entrepreneurs in the dairy sector. It may be recalled that NestlÈ Pakistan Ltd and SDC signed an accord for Farmer Development in Pakistan. According to the agreement, SDC and NestlÈ Pakistan have joined hands for the training and development of 400 farmers in the dairy sector. These farmers will be provided training in different livestock and dairy farming techniques at the NestlÈ Sarsabz farm, which will greatly help in rural poverty reduction through capacity enhancement and entrepreneurship development in livestock & dairy farming.