May 28 - June 3, 20

Advocating an early construction of Kalabagh Dam, experts have declared that this dam is inevitable for survival of Pakistan, as if the government fails to take any practical steps, poverty and hunger will be the endless fate that may lead the country to irrecoverable disaster.

Speaking at a Grand Debate on Kalabagh Dam, arranged by the Lahore chamber of commerce and industry (LCCI) in Lahore, former KPK Chief Minister Shamsul Mulk, LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, Vice Chairman Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) Dr Miftah Ismail, former LCCI President Tariq Hameed Pakistan Engineers Forum's Ghalib Atta, LCCI Senior Vice President Kashif Younis Meher, former Provincial Minister Mumtaz Khan Manais, Salman Najib, and LCCI former Senior Vice President Engineer Sohail Lashari said that all those who were opposing the Kalabagh dam were enemies of this country as they were playing with the country's future.

Shams said that the only because of government silence over Kalabagh dam, the country is suffering a loss of Rs132 billion annually. This amount could be saved by initiating construction of the dam, he added. Shamsul Mulk said that there is no threat to Nowshehra city as it is 150 feet above the water level. He said it is very unfortunate that the decision markers in this country has nothing to lose rather they continue to enjoy all perks under the sky even if they make a wrong decision, it is the masses who suffer actually. Same is happening today, there is no electricity, but the politicians and the top bureaucrats all are getting it free of cost.

Engineer Shamsul Mulk said that Kalabagh dam was not only beneficial to Punjab alone but it would be more helpful in erasing poverty from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) as it would irrigate 800,000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100-150 feet above the Indus river level in the province. 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.

The 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.

The former KPK chief minister said that the politicians opposing the construction of the dam are in fact enemies of the people of province.

He said historical data indicate that during past 75 years average 146 million acres of water is available per year in river Indus.

He said the Kalabagh dam issue has been so much politicized that a consensus would not be possible. The political leadership, he added, 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.

In his opening remarks, the LCCI President said that a further delay in gathering a consensus from all stakeholders on the construction of unduly politicized Kalabagh dam would cost this country and its coming generations very dearly.

Sheikh said that all the stakeholders should show some greater maturity on the issue of Kalabagh. It is the high time that all undue stands should be brushed aside to save the country from that era of darkness. He said that unlike Pakistan, India is constructing dams at every possible site. It has left us decades behind and coming time does not promise any good thing either.

He said that every one knows that the existing dams are constantly silting up leaving ever decreasing capacity to store water. The construction of Kalabagh dam along with other new dams is desperately needed to store adequate water.

According to a conservative estimate, about 30 million acre feet of water is being wasted into the sea because the country has no big water reservoirs to store it.

More importantly, as a result of melting of glaciers due to global warming, the sword of Damocles remains hanging over our heads in the shape of floods. An opinion gained widespread support across the country that the losses of recent floods in Pakistan, which are estimated to be more than 45 billion dollars, could have been reduced if big dams and water reservoirs were in place.

He said that another significant aspect connected with the construction of Kalabagh dam is the surety of sufficient amount of electricity at comparatively much cheaper price. The country's dependence on power generated through thermal sources is costing it way too much, making it face insurmountable challenges to remain competitive both in national and international markets.

Another significant aspect connected with the construction of Kalabagh dam is the surety of sufficient amount of greener and cheaper electricity. Electricity generation through thermal sources is estimated to cost almost Rs16 per unit whereas the same can be produced at Rs2.5 to Rs3 through hydel sources.

He said that the present scenario leads to import oil worth over US$12 billion a year.

So far, Punjab Assembly has neither passed any resolution in favor of Kalabagh dam nor against it whereas other three provincial assemblies have opposed its construction. Since, Punjab is facing the real brunt of energy shortage, we strongly urge that Punjab Assembly must pass a resolution for immediately building all the feasible dams including Kalabagh dam, he added.

The LCCI senior vice president said that the controversies about Kalabagh dam are hitting the entire country and adding to masses sufferings. Therefore, a campaign should be launched to evolve a consensus on this issue of national importance.

At the end of the grand debate, former LCCI senior vice president Sohail Lashari presented a joint resolution, which was unanimously passed by the house. The resolution called for early construction of Kalabagh dam in the larger interests of the country and its people.

LCCI former president Mian Anjum Nisar, Mian Shafqat Ali, Mian Muzaffar Ali, Shahid Hassan Sheikh, former Senior Vice President Sheikh Mohammad Arshad, former Vice Presidents Sikandar Mustafa Khan, Aftab Ahmad Vohra and Shafqat Saeed Piracha also spoke on the occasion.