KALABAGH DAM VITAL FOR NEXT GENERATION

KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Mar 29 - Apr 4, 2010

Pakistan Water Front, which was recently formed by leading businessman Shahzad Ali Malik with the help of other businessmen, is playing a commendable role in familiarizing the public of the water related issues.

In this regard, Pakistan Water Front is regularly holding seminars and forums to highlight the problems confronted to the country in the wake of water scarcity particularly after stopping water by India.

In a function organised by Pakistan Water Forum, former NWFP caretaker chief minister Engineer Shamsul Mulk said that Pakistan direly needs to initiate networking with China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on water issue, as India is deliberately creating problems for all the regional countries.

Shamsul Mulk, who is also former Chairman WAPDA, said that he had been talking on the water issue for a long time now but unfortunately neither any politician nor any government gave due attention towards this problem, which has now put the very survival of the country at stake. He also urged the government to establish Water Cell at Foreign Office so that the water issue could be taken up at appropriate forum.

Shamsul Mulk said that all those who were opposing the Kalabagh Dam were not doing any favour to the whole nation. So much so, he said, they were playing with future generations of this country. He said, "It is unfortunate that our decision markers are not the victims of wrong decisions they make as alone common persons are adversely affected by wrong decisions."

He said proposed Kalabagh Dam site is located 100-150 feet above the Indus river level in NWFP. He said this land could only be brought under cultivation if the river level is raised that is only possible if Kalabagh Dam is built. He said the other alternative is to pump the water which is very costly.

He added that creditable studies have indicated that pumping water for potential cultivable land would cost farmers Rs5000 per acre per year while canal water after construction of Kalabagh Dam would cost only Rs400 per acre per year.

Shamsul Mulk said that NWFP politicians opposing the construction of the dam are in fact enemies of the people of the province. He said historical data indicates that during past 75 years average 146 million acres of water is available per year in river Indus. He said, "We throw an average 30 MAF of water per year in the sea - most of it during two months of monsoon. He said this water must be stored for irrigation and power generation."

He said the Kalabagh Dam issue has been so much politicized that a consensus would not be possible. The political leadership, he said, is manipulating the issue for their advantage. He said civil society would have to play a crucial role in creating a larger consensus, as new large water reservoirs would benefit every Pakistani.

He said a recent seminar on hydro politics in South Asia held at London concluded that China, India and Pakistan are poor in fresh water that has the potential to turn in to conflicts. He said India has got double standards when it comes to water rights. He said India claims right on the basis of upper riparian over use of this water against Pakistan while in case of China and Nepal from where some of its rivers originate it claims water on historic use. However, he added before confronting India we must put our house in order. He said if we cannot defend and prudently utilize our own resources we would not be able to fight for the similar resources being usurped by others.

Pakistan Water Front Convener Shahzad Ali Malik said it is not the Pakistan alone against which the Indian government is hatching water conspiracies but it is playing the same game with China, Bangladesh and Nepal. He said Pakistan is on the brink of mass starvation as the process to turn it into a desert has begun because of a drastic cut in water availability from 5,000 cubic meters per capita in 1950s to 1000 cubic meter in 2010 despite the fact that water availability per capita ranks last amongst Asian countries and Pakistan experiencing severe water stress. Without water 20 million acres of otherwise fertile land would dry up in a week and tens of millions of people would starve, he added.