Research Analyst
Aug 30 - Sep 05, 2010

Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture, which is dependent on water. Of total 79.6 million hectares of land that makes up Pakistan, 20 million are available for agricultural. Of 20 million hectares, 16 million are dependent on irrigation. It is estimated that up to 90 per cent of Pakistan's agriculture is dependent on irrigation. An even more important fact is that many of Pakistan's industries are agro-based, such as the textile industry.

Major agricultural areas lay within the plains formed by Indus River and its tributaries namely Kabul, Chenab, Ravi, Jhelum and Sutlej. Indus plains are like a tunnel with number of water sources at the top, converging into single stream, which flows into the Arabian Sea, near the city of Karachi. After independence in 1947, many developments in the canal systems were made.

Today, Pakistan is reeling under the impact of the recent spates of devastating floods, which have wreaked havoc across the country. More than 20 million people have been affected. The death toll has risen over 1600. Outbreak of epidemic may put more than 3.5 million children's lives at risk.

With communication infrastructure having been devastated and schools, colleges, homes, factories and workplaces having been washed away by the deluge, it will take years and billions of dollars to restart routine lives.

Pakistan has been let down by successive governments, who failed in the task of water management, falling prey to political whims and deferring the decision to build more dams. The country will see surplus waters rushing into the seas wasted and unutilised for energy irrigation because of insufficient dams, catchments, and reservoirs.

Rivers inundated major areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, swamping villages and towns in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan and creating real emergency for the people of Pakistan who were least prepared to deal with such an extraordinary challenge. Incessant rains not only brought fresh waves of gushing water but also caused landslides killing many people in Northern Pakistan with districts of Skardu and Hangu most affected.

The communication infrastructure being the worst hit impeded the relief operation. International friends and donors including UN Secretary General made emotional statements of relief for flood victims. The people of Pakistan are optimistic that relief effort will gear up soon and their needs will be met.

While the nation needs to extend all possible assistance to relief providing agencies as a token of their expression of solidarity with the flood victims, the political process must start building up to consider permanent solutions to such disasters.

There is need to build more dams and enhance water storage capacity. This will enable the country to better deal with the floods and avoid its shattering impact.

While the people who have lost their near and dear ones, property, cattle and their mental peace will not be averse to supporting the decision of building more dams. People who said that if Kalabagh Dam is built, Nowshehra would be submerged with water, they should only visit Charsadda and the adjoining area to get to the truth.

Pakistan has been heading towards acute water shortage as the per capita surface water capacity has not kept up with the rapid increase in population. The minimum water requirement to be a "water short country" is 1,000 cubic meters.

Not building dams has exposed Pakistan to another serious threat. India, which has built more than a dozen dams in Occupied Kashmir alone, controls all rivers flowing into Pakistan including the River Indus. The only river, which flows in through Afghanistan is the River Kabul. Even that is controlled by India that has built the Sarobi Dam for Afghanistan and is maintaining it.

For decades India has also threatened that it has the capacity of turning Pakistan into an arid desert by shutting off the water or flooding Pakistan with surplus water.

Recently, government has announced to build Diamer Bhasha dam. This dam will be completed in 2019, would have a storage capacity of 6.4 million acre-feet of water and would produce 4,500 megawatts of electricity.


Gomal Zam Dam NWFP 12,829 1.14 163,086
Greater Thal Canal Punjab 30,467 - 1,534,000
Rainee Canal Sindh 18,862 - 412,000
Kachhi Canal Baloc 31,204 - 713,000
Sabakzai Dam Baloc 1,577 0.02 6,680
Raising of Mangla Dam (30 ft) AJ&K 62,553 2.9 Through out Pak
Satpara Dam Multi-purpose Skardu 2,090 0.05 15,536
Diamer Basha Dam Project NA & KP Cost not Yet final 6.4 Feasibility in progress
Kurram Tangi Dam KP 17,205 0.83 362,380


Pakistan's strategic planners must take the factor of India's "water wars" into consideration since building more dams and reservoirs can offset India's macabre stratagem of drowning Pakistan or turning its fertile plains into desert.