Feb 21 - 27, 2011

Kala Bagh Dam once again? Issue of Kala Bagh Dam has been reopened by interested quarters despite resolution against it by three provincial assemblies. This is very unfortunate and must be resisted.

This time around the Super Flood of 2010 has been used as basis of renewed debate. Argument being that huge amount of water was released to the sea and large areas devastated by the flood, and that if Kala Bagh had been present, water could have been preserved and loss minimized. The other argument is that if 4,500 MV electricity produced by Kala Bagh Dam had been available, current energy crisis would not be there. In my opinion, both the justification is based on bad intention of a particular province and national interest demand finding solution to water and electricity shortages somewhere else.


The water debate in Pakistan is going on for a long time. On one side, there are people like Chairman of WAPDA who claim that there is lot of water in Pakistan and there are people who think that there is shortage of water in Pakistan. Those who think there is plenty of water believe that Pakistan can support a population of 450 million, if water is properly used. Those who think that there is overall shortage of water think that given the large share of water taken away by Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan are likely to become deserts if more water is held by Punjab by means of Dam like Kala Bagh. They think there is not enough water in the system to be further shared or managed.


The fact is that in total 206 Million Acre Feet (MAF) of water is collected from Rain, melting of Glaciers and Tube wells in Pakistan, on the average every year, based on a 11 years cycle. Out of this, only 54 MAF is used, rest goes waste and causes water logging and salinity. The massive rains of 2010 has vastly improved the total rain water contribution in total water availability of Pakistan and this is the basis of the new debate. Suppose an additional 50 MAF was added in 2010 and let us assume that owning to global warming we may expect such event say every 3 years and thus the average availability of water has increased from 206 MAF to 223 MAF, does it fundamentally change the real issue of huge wastage of water in Pakistan? No! 206 or 223 MAF preservation and proper use is the real issue not the quantity available.

Kala Bagh Dam which will inundate major part of historic Peshawar valley, the bread basket of KP is no answer to the huge water storage problem of Pakistan. It could do a little. The solution lies in making very large storages in nine locations spread from Skardu to Khinjhar lake. In order to store 150 to 173 MFA, we need very large areas and fortunately for Pakistan such areas are available. I propose building very large storages in following locations:

1. SKARDU: At this point the largest water reservoir as well substantial power generation Dam can be built. However, as this location is very far from population, this option will be used after the other cheaper options are already used up.

2. BHASHA: Below Skardu yet very far from population this point has already been chosen as site for very large water reservoir as well power generation dam. Work has started on the project.

3 & 4. TARBELA and MANGLA: At these points water reservoirs and power generation dams exists. However, their capacity to hold water has reduced substantially with the accumulation of silt deposits. There is a need for major cleanup to restore old water storage capacity.

5. GUDDU: In front of Guddu barrage lies a vast lake extending up to Zahir Pir on East and Kot Mithan in the west. This 350 square Km area is now completely filled and water from Pungnad and Indus disappear at this point and its water reaches Guddu Barrage by means of small streams on which bridges are built. It is possible to travel from Zahir Pir to Kot Mithan on a truck over the lake. In March 2007, I travelled on this route of on 35 Km to avoid a otherwise 350 Km journey via the Guddu Barrage in the south. Deposits of centuries have reduced the potential to hold water to nothing. If this lake had been say 100 ft deep, the entire 50 MFA or so water of 2010 Flood could have been parked at this point. Such huge water body could have changed the ecology and climate of the entire area. It could have made it possible that the entire track from Kashmoor to Mithan Kot in the western side could have been brought under cultivation. This vast dry and arid area at the foot of Balochistan Mountains is flat and potentially very good agriculture land if water could be pumped to from the lake in front of Guddu. I propose that this area be deepened 100 ft using rudimentary manual means whereby the flood affectees are offered daily wages of Rs500 per day for digging out 100 bag of soil every day. These labourers using just a spade and bags may work for months to end their current poverty and create a major water reservoir for Pakistan. Such schemes have been very successful in China and elsewhere.

6. SUKKUR: The 40 by 60 KM long water body which gathered in front of Sukkur Barrage in August 2010 could have destroyed Sukkur city and carried away the Barrage. I was on the protective wall of Sukkur on 17th August and was scared as the water was just 2 feet below the wall and its break was highly anticipated and entire population was panicking. Somehow, the water passed yet we cannot take another chance like this and must act to protect the "life line" of Sindh. I propose that like Guddu this area should also be deepened by 100 ft using the same means as proposed for Guddu. This will create a huge water body with positive impact on climate. This immense water can help us open new agriculture area in the east beyond Punu Aqil. The huge Thar desert can be provided water from this reservoir changing the face of this poor region. The current Nal Canal can then be extended up to Nagar parker thus greening the entire Thar desert.

7. KOTRI: Indus River from Sukkur to Kotri extending nearly 400 Km is again filled with silt. By end August 2010 when 10 million cusec water was passing Kotri Barrage, there was great anxiety that it may break away, as that level of flow was not experienced in the past. Somehow, the disaster was avoided. The 'Katcha' as the riverbed is called is being used as agriculture belt thus lots of manmade obstacles have been erected which reduced the water holding capacity of the river. As the depth of the river is minimal any large flow of water puts heavy pressure on the side protective walls as well as the barrage. If the riverbed is deepened 100 ft in the same manner as Guddu very large amount of water can be stored at this point. This last barrier before water rushes to the sea must be used effectively to stop wastage of water reaching sea beyond the required 10 MAF pa.

8. HAMAL LAKE: Located close to Shahdad Kot this large lake which intakes water from higher grounds of Balochistan and Sindh is also lost its capacity to hold water due to silting. If this lake had depth of 100 ft it could have accommodated a large part of flood water that inundated the area in 2010. This lake can be used to drain out all the excess water from Kashmore till Shahdad Kot on a regular basis. This area is badly affected by water logging and salinity. A deep lake like HAMAL can become a source of water for Jahl Magsi and other dry and arid but plain lands between mountains and Shahdad Kot. This can open new agriculture region and alleviate poverty in the area and boost agriculture production.

9. MANCHAR LAKE: Located near Shewan Sharif this is the largest fresh water lake of Indo Pakistan. It is home to 40,000 fishermen. Water from Kithar Range mountain and other higher grounds of the area as far as Shahdad Kot get stored here. When Indus is full water from it flows into Manchar from near Shewan. It is nature's out let for excessive water of Indus. When the water level in Indus is low water from Manchar flows back to it by a different route. The lake is surrounded by hills from three sides. Thus to increase its water holding capacity it will cost very less. If we only increase the height of the protective wall on one side, the capacity will be increased. It is also recommended that its depth is also increased so that water of one full Super Flood could be stored here. Water from this huge water body could be sent down towards Thana Bula Khan and Gadab to convert its plains into agriculture area.

10. KHINJHAR LAKE: Located above Thatta this is last large water storage point of Pakistan. Excessive water from Indus and water from surrounding hills gather here. Currently, it is a shallow lake with limited storage capacity. During 2010 floods, it quickly filled and overflowed. I propose that this lake should also be deepened by 100 feet to create water source for irrigation in dry lands towards super highway and dry area above Gharo. If Super floods charge this reservoir even once in four years, the current dry land can become good agriculture land improving the prosperity of the area.


Pakistan has plenty of water and based on it is likely to emerge as a dominant economic power of the world. It is unable to store its water and the excessive water is in fact hampering its agriculture production. We need to store our water and for that natural reservoirs are available which only need to be deepened. The cost would not be much if the work is done manually by flood affectees. This will provide them jobs for next 5 years and lift them out of poverty in an honourable manner. Bill Gates Foundation's help may be requested for this project and it will be forth coming.

Producing 4,500 MW electricity at Kala Bagh is not the answer to the power problem of Pakistan. The answer lies in using the huge coal reserve of Thar discovered in 1994. The reserves are enough to produce 100,000 MW electricity for next 213 years. Politics has been largely responsible for lack of progress on this project. If this is developed justification for Kala Bagh Dam will vanish forever.

The manner in which Shenwa a Chinese co which came in 2005 to produce 6,000 MW electricity out of Thar Coal was made to leave the country by 2007 suggest bad intention by Nepra officials. They fought with the Co on a difference of just 3 cents and let them go after they had invested so much in the area has frightened international investors forever. National interest demanded laying out red carpet for such a pioneering Co. It is reported that very large bribe was demanded by powerful people and the Co could not pay and thus left. It is also said that President Musharraf personally tried to persuade the Co to come back but they refused.

President Zardari has put all his support behind Thar project but progress is reluctant to come by. Thar Coal Authority with CM of Sindh as its Chief has been formed but federal representation is very strong. Thus, its effectiveness since 2009 is not impressive. In Feb 2009, a large Investors Conference was organized by Sindh Government but not a single international investor showed up. Embarrassed, to save face in 2010 a 1000 MW project has been announced by Sindh government with Engro Group on 50-50 equity basis. Indicating very low interest by large energy Cos in the World up to now.

Dr. Mubarak Samar Mand was appointed Supervisor of Sindh Coal Project and promised to start producing cheap electricity and gas by 2011 provided gas turbines are given to him immediately. However, his job seems to be ending soon according to some press reports. With all his genius and good intentions the problem is that this very highly capital intensive industry and government of Pakistan simply does not have the money.

Currently all big economic powers derive 60-90 per cent of the energy needs from Coal. Therefore there is no reason why we should not utilize this resource to the full extend to make Pakistan a major Economic power of the World. Electricity produced from Coal can emerge as the largest Export earner for Pakistan if we sell our surplus electricity to India. India is ready to buy up 70,000 MW of electricity from Pakistan. Recently it also offered to buy our Coal for use in its Coal powered Electricity plants in Rajasthan.

The cost of Thar Coal based electricity is reportedly Rs5.5 KV if the charges related to infra structure development is not amortized. This is very low cost compared to the Rental Power and Furnace Oil based electricity and this is probably the reason why some vested interest do not want this project to take off.

National interest demand that all obstacles in harnessing Thar Coal placed by NEPRA and other agencies of the Federal Government be removed. In fact in the process of down sizing the Federal Government NEPRA should be disbanded to avoid similar episode as happened with SHANWA. Without large Energy Cos participation this huge natural resource cannot be used. We must accept that we neither have the technology and money for such large project.


1) I, suggest that we convert the entire Thar Coal area into Pakistan's first Free Economic Zone in which Government will have no role and the entire Area would be managed by on Corporate Authority on Chinese Model. With such freedom Energy Cos as well other international Cos will flock to the Area to take advantage of huge Coal reserve, make electricity sell it to India and Pakistan and provide power to other industries that would be established. With cheap energy and manpower in the Zone; it will attract huge investment which will help us end unemployment in the country on a short notice.

2) In the meantime, I suggest that immediately we should let Indian Power Cos use our Coal in raw form for their electricity plants in Rajasthan. We can start generating cash that will help us prepare the area for large Energy Cos. Thar Coal Authority should be the sole negotiator of such deal and no Federal agency should interfere.


The Wind power potential of Wind Corridor between Gharo and Kati Bander is estimated at 50,000 MW. A small Turkish project of 6 MW is about to get operational and Asian Development Bank is providing finance to increase the capacity to 56.4 MW. Lots of Cos have been allocated land in this belt but they are facing difficulty in getting possession of land. This area has become mostly saline due to sea intrusion and thus no more very suitable for agriculture.

It makes economic sense that against a fair compensation the entire area is taken away from current owners and converted into Second Free Economic Zone on Chinese Model. With 50,000 MW power this area can become the second big Economic engine of Pakistan as lead it out of current economic difficulties.

Sindh has the capacity to produced 150,000 MW electricity from Coal and Wind for 213 years and 50,000 MW forever. Thus the lower part of Sindh from Gharo till Indian border has the potential to become one of the largest industrial hub of the World. Compared to these figures Kala Bagh's promised 4,500 MW is not insignificant and must be ignored and all attention should be focused on Southern Sindh. To see results in our life time I earnestly recommend formation of two Free Economic Zones as the vehicles for harnessing the huge energy potential of the area and creating jobs to see end of economic misery in the Country.

The writer is President Overseas Pakistani Investors Forum.