Kalabagh Dam: Facts and Fictions

It is perceived by a large section of public opinion in Sindh that One Unit was created to deprive Sindh of its Water Rights by removing the Province from negotiations with India on Indus Water Treaty.
Although this perception is not directly related to Kalabagh Dam Project, I have included it to clear the air of mistrust related with the formation of One Unit and signing of Indus Water Treaty.
It is a fact that negotiations with India continued from 1947 to 1960 on water issue and it was in this period that Sindh as a province got merged in the one unit. But, was it done without the consent of Sindh and was exclusion of Sindh Province from negotiations with India the reason for this new constitutional arrangement?
Unfortunately the advocates of KBD in Punjab hardly understand the sensitivity of lower riparian Sindh on issues like formation of One Unit and Indus Water Treaty. A section of public opinion in Sindh believes in the carefully crafted narrative that after independence, the Pakistani leadership dominated by Punjab firstly took away the political identity of Sindh by creation of One Unit and then in the political void negotiated the Treaty. Indus Basin Replacement Works are also believed to deprive Sindh of its due share of water as well as to pave the way for investment of billions of dollars in KP and Punjab. This as perceived by them, was at the expense of Sindh which was equally responsible for returning the loans from which it had not benefitted. This narrative has been brilliantly outlined by those Sindhi nationalists whose passion enables them to create an expose which makes a very interesting reading. With the spirit of a dedicated explorer, they venture into the darkest recesses of Punjabi mind to bring out, yet undiscovered shades of villainy. Another writer who has linked the creation of one unit with water issue is Mr. M.H. Panhawar, a man of multifaceted personality whose services were duly recognized by decorating him with Award of Sitara-e-Imtiaz. He has mentioned in one of the interviews conducted by Anwer Pirzado in February 2001, “ … in 1954, Mr. Ayub Khuhro okayed the One Unit Scheme with eleven pre-conditions, the very first being that "The 1945 Water Agreement would remain intact.”
This statement intrigued me because the draft of 1945 agreement between Punjab and Sindh was ratified neither by the governments nor by Provincial Assemblies of both federating units under the British rule. That is why I went through the records of Sindh Assembly archives on One Unit and read the complete Resolution on allowing the Federal Govt. to adopt One Unit Scheme. The official record nowhere mentions that adoption of this political scheme was linked with water issues. Moreover, almost all political historians have written extensively on the scheme of One Unit and none of them, even mentions its linkage with water issues. They consider it a purely political attempt to deny East Pakistan of its majority and bring it at par with West Pakistan’s four Provinces.
In this narrative, another fiction relates to creation of One Unit and its impact on the negotiations and ultimate agreement on Indus Water Treaty.
Here, it would be appropriate to give a brief background of Indus Water Treaty. To resolve the water dispute which had erupted in May 1948, broadly two options were available;
a) Manage Indus Basin through a joint effort,
b) Divide Rivers between the two countries.

Both these options ultimately required transfer of water from the rivers flowing in the upper reaches in north to rivers in the lower reaches in the south.
Americans, as well as European nations were keen to see a peaceful and permanent resolution of this dispute. World Bank got involved and favoured the joint development of Indus Basin by the two countries. Mr. David Lilienthal was sent to India and Pakistan. Lilienthal was a highly educated and capable person. He had studied at Harvard Law School and had very competently managed Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This project had catered for the needs of seven States and had brought prosperity to area through just and efficient management of water resources. After retiring from TVA, he served as Chairman of US Atomic Energy Commission. He was tasked to explore possible solutions to manage Indus Basin. Mr. Lilienthal came to India & Pakistan, met Liaquat Ali Khan and Nehru and on his return wrote a lengthy article in Collier’s Magazine August 1951 issue, titled “Another Korea in the Making”. Based on his own experience of working in TVA, he considered it feasible that India and Pakistan should jointly work to manage the Indus Basin.

The conclusions drawn in the article written by Mr. David E. Lilienthal are worth quoting. After seeing the partition line which divided the Canal system and Barrages, his opinion was “Why the flow of the Punjab’s lifeblood was so carelessly handled in the partition no one seems to know.”
It would clarify our mindset about the water dispute and the resultant IWT, if we read carefully the following opinion of the neutral observer. He wrote “The partition gave India almost none of the canals and irrigation systems, and little irrigated land compared with her needs. Out of 22 million acres now irrigated in the Indus Basin, Pakistan has 18 million, India about 5 million; yet India has 20 million people in the Indus Basin, almost as many as Pakistan’s 22 million. There are 35 million more acres in India’s part of the Indus Basin which if irrigated could raise food and do a good job of it. So India is going full speed ahead with canals, headworks and dams that will divert the flow of upstream water to irrigate as many as these 35 million acres as possible.”
Regarding Pakistan’s reaction, he wrote “Pakistanis say this will deny them water to which they have a legal and moral right. India says it is her water, her dam and that her people must eat, too.” He further writes “So has arisen a bitter controversy, one that involves life itself for 42 million people.”
His conclusion was “It is pure dynamite, a Punjab powder keg. Peace in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent is not in sight with these inflammables lying around. Unless a better answer on water is soon forthcoming, even if the Kashmir plebiscite could be held, peace would not come.”
He suggested possible solution in the following words:
“The whole Indus system must be developed as a unit – designed, built and operated as a unit, as is the seven-state TVA system back in the U.S.”
It is obvious that opinion given in 1951 regarding cooperation with India to develop and manage the Indus Basin jointly was a far-fetched idea and not easily acceptable. What was the alternative? In the assessment of Mr. Lilienthal, the water conflict was extremely dangerous. It may sound dramatic but the potential of the water dispute to ignite a full-fledged war between the two countries was assessed to be much greater than the ongoing problem of Kashmir. There was enormous pressure on both countries to settle the water distribution.
Regarding the available option of joint development of Indus Basin by India and Pakistan, Mr. Majed Akhtarin 2013, wrote a PhD thesis on the topic, “The Geopolitics of Infrastructure: Development, Expertise, and Nation on The Indus River”. He examines the issue in detail and concludes, “In 1954, Lilienthal’s plan of managing the basin on an integrated basis was formally abandoned, and it was decided by all parties that the Basin should be partitioned in some form, with the Western Rivers going to Pakistan and the Eastern Rivers going to India. Pakistan insisted that this could not be done without major development works, to assure that the fields that were irrigated by the Eastern Rivers continued to be so.”
The background of One Unit and Indus Water Treaty has been mentioned in detail to dispel the perception that these developments were part of a conspiracy hatched by Punjab to deprive Sindh of its water share.

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