The Lahore High Court on November 29, 2012, ordered that Kalabagh Dam (KBD) must be constructed. Some people disputed this order. A lot of brainstorming among the politicians has now begun. It is an old lingering problem and everyone knows that it is to national economy. This government takes pride in finalising the Finance Commission Award. Its other pride is that it is not going to allow KBD to be built. The Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, decided to take lesser share of water for his province and that is how the Finance Commission Award was finalised.
The present available dams have reached their dead levels. The Thar Desert is afflicted with scorching heat. The animals start dying because of extreme shortage of water. The Tharis commence migration in search of water. The Sindh government approached IRSA and requested for water on loan from Punjab for irrigation and other purposes. Punjab government readily obliged with a lot of water to Sindh. The monsoon season is the time when the need for dams is felt to hold large quantities of water. The lack of foresight in Pakistan has brought continuous cycle of disaster; either Sindh is dying because of less water and sometimes because of excess of water.
Every educated Pakistani knows that this dam is vital and the issue will never be solved politically. KPK is opposing it because they have been fed the misinformation that city like Nowshehra will drown as a result. When Mangla and Tarbela dams were constructed 27 lakh acres became fertile in Sindh. It is now estimated that with KBD another 20 lakh acres in Sindh will become fertile. These are enormous advantages, not to talk of the cheap electricity Kalabagh will make available. Once these lands start becoming fertile a huge amount of labour force will get employment opportunities
People talk about four small dams at Chitral, Dir, Kalam and Munda. These four small dams combined give a storage capacity of 5.25 MAF. The ANP leadership asserts that had these four small dams been made there would have been far less damage in Peshawar, Charsada and Nowshehra; while they don’t accept the same analogy for Kalabagh Dam. While consensus is being developed for KBD, these small dams should be expeditiously built. In the meanwhile the opponents of KBD should appeal to the Supreme Court on those technical grounds on the basis of which they contend that Nowshehra will drown because of seepage from KBD site, which is 125 km downstream of Nowshehra.
The incessant increases in the diesel price do not hurt the farmers in Sindh because they depend on the cheap canal water. It hurts the peasants and farmers in Punjab very badly. Unfortunately the politicians of Punjab cannot afford to act firmly because they have to beg for votes; and therefore they will continue giving on-loan water Sindh and still face the resolutions in the Sindh Assembly. The Sindh politicians do not understand that KBD is going to benefit Sindh more than Punjab. The facts and figures deposed by Mr Ibrahim Mughal are absolutely correct and deserve to be taken note of.
The PPP gets maximum votes from Punjab, yet maximum opposition to KBD comes from this party. However in May 2010 when Yousuf Raza Gilani was approached by people from Sindh for water he replied, “We are making every effort to make arrangements for water for our people and even if we have to go to war with India for that we shall do it”. That was a statement forced out of him in the environment of the driest period in our history. Even at that time he did not utter a word about KBD. However on August 10, when the 2010 floods were raging he said, “If KBD had been made there would have been far less damage.” Coming from Mr Gilani it indicated his agreement to KBD project. The then Governor of Punjab Mr Salman Taseer also gave the same statement. It is amazing PPP leadership today has forgotten what their top leaders had publicly stated in the past.
I wish Mr Gilani had in mind that God Almighty has blessed us with about 142 MAF of water in a year. In the 2010 floods, Pakistanis were drowning under 95.54 MAF of water just in three months. But the pity is we did not have enough reservoirs, this blessing of God Almighty which because of our inability to tame it, became a punishment upon our hapless people. Our people had to suffer because our policy planners who had faltered in their basic job of protecting them. Field Marshall Ayub Khan in his 10-year rule, along with quite a few small dams made three big dams. Forty four years, after him we have made precious little number of small dams and zero number of big dams. Dams play very major role in the economy of nations. The USA has constructed 100,000 dams, China 87,000 and India 7,000 dams while Pakistan has built only 75 dams.
A large number of the people are of the view that the antagonists of KBD have the option to appeal against this judgment. In this appeal they should try to prove on technical grounds that Nowshehra will sink in the seepage from KBD. Nowshehra is 125 km upstream of the dam site. In-between, there is a mountainous terrain all along the west bank. The dam would generate 3,600 megawatts of cheap electricity. Only a sleeping nation can overlook these impressive figures to its utter loss.
The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel.