Some bitter facts

Pakistan is facing acute water shortage over the years. Everyone is crying about shortage of water. For years, large quantity of water is going as sheer waste in the Arabian Sea because the country has not developed any other major storage facility in more than forty years after Tarbela dam.

Already facing water insecurity, Pakistan faces a potentially catastrophic shortage of water as the ravages of global warning are leading to the further drying of our rivers. As a country which receives little rainfall, it is essential we should be prudent in the use and innovative storage of our limited water resources.

Only in the first week of November 2017, members of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources had very bitterly and plainly told the Senate Forum for Policy Research that Pakistan dumps water worth about 21 billion dollars into the Arabian Sea every year because the country do not have sufficient water conservation systems. This is actually more than half of the total water which the country receives annually.

According to the experts, the problem is that our storage facilities i.e. Mangla dam and Tarbela dam, can store water which is enough for 30 days only and are of the considered opinion that one solution to this is the construction of somewhat controversial and much criticized Kalabagh dam which is, most unfortunately, is a non-starter because it is being resolutely opposed by Sindh, Khyber Pukhtunkhwah and Balochistan and only Punjab is in its favour. It is also a bitter fact that storage capacity of Mangla dam and Tarbela dam is gradually decreasing due to silting and other problems and raising the level of Tarbela dam will cost so much which is enough to construct a new major storage capacity in the country. An alternate solution may be construction of number of small dams and reservoirs but even that is not being given due consideration in the official quarters concerned at the national and provincial levels.

This is not all. Latest working of Pakistan Water Partnership done by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and former Member (Water) WAPDA and former Regional Chairman of Global Water Partnership –South Asia Sardar Muhammad Tariq has made shocking disclosures to say the least.

According to it, Pakistan has lost 1570 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water in the last 38 years which could have contributed as much as 636 billion dollars to its Agriculture Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone. This huge quantum of water which has gone and still going unabatedly into the Arabian Sea , it case if it’s being stored in the dams would have generated 430000 megawatt of electricity . But somehow, since Pakistan has failed so far to construct more dams, it is suffering from electricity load-shedding of various durations for years together.

Due to lack of adequate major storage facility, according to this study, Pakistan had lost as much as 112 BCM of water to the sea valuing 46 billion dollars in just three floods of 2010, 2011 and 2014 alone.

The water so lost in these three floods is equivalent to original live storage of as many as 10 Tarbela dams and had this huge quantity of water been stored and properly utilised, Pakistan would have generated hydropower of 30478 megawatts.

As also previously mentioned in an article by this scribe, much criticised, condemned and politicised Kalabagh dam was being mentioned in the official documents as half-hearted attempts were being made every now and then by military rulers General Muhammad Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharaf but these were somehow not taken to logical conclusion due to lack of national consensus as this is being constantly opposed by three provinces of Sindh, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah and Balochistan without appreciating the ground realities and its technical aspects and benefits. But when PPP came into power after 2008 elections and portfolio of Water and Power was entrusted to MNA from Gujjar Khan Raja Parvaiz Ashraf, he scrapped Kalabagh dam off the official documents with one stroke of pen in line with the party policy against it.

However, it is somewhat heartening to note that though not still being mentioned in the official documents, Water Resources Federal Minister from Multan Syed Javed Ali Shah in the cabinet of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who replaced industrialist turned politician and since disqualified Prime Minister from Lahore Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, has talked about making renewed efforts to develop elusive national consensus at least three times including in the National Assembly during last more than four months.

Latest being in the first week of December 2017 while talking the media people after attending an event of visual-guide based on Fourth National Flood Protection Plan in Islamabad the federal minister reiterated his demand to develop national consensus on construction of controversial Kalabagh dam saying it has been greatly politicized and all the provinces should resolve this issue of great national importance amicably through consensus.

The Federal Minister went on to remark “those who are opposing the project should either satisfy us or let our experts satisfy them through facts, by constructing Kalabagh dam, around 80 per cent of Sindh and Khyber Pukhtunkhwah provinces will benefit as instead of wasting water , we should rather be utilising it”.

Last month, Provincial Assembly of Sindh had once again passed a resolution against the construction of what it said controversial Kalabagh dam describing it as a dead horse and this had obviously been done after the Federal Minister for Water Resources Syed Javed Ali Shah in the parliament in favour of the dam. Provincial Assemblies of Sindh, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah and Balochistan have passed resolutions against Kalabagh dam more than once over the years.

The opponents are opposing the construction of much needed major storage facility merely on political, regional and vested interests basis than technical or any other reasonable ground and keeping the national interests uppermost.

Southern Punjab is the food basket of Pakistan, the federal minister asserted, and the areas so located are being adversely affected and hit due to non-construction of Kalabagh dam and went on to point out that after he had raised the issue of Kalabagh dam in the parliament, “the Sindh Assembly has brought a resolution against me but as for I understand importance of this dam so I used to talk on it”. To substantiate his stance, he said that when sometime back Pakistan had went to the International Court of Justice at the Hague against India, the stance adopted by India was that Pakistan is not using but wasting water.

Kalabagh dam can be constructed in six to eight years as spadework has been done to the extent of tenders documents etc and it can generate 2400 to 3600 megawatt of power and store more than six million acres of feet (MAF) of water for three years which can be used to provide additional water to all the provinces for boosting agricultural production in the country.

When we will start keeping the national interests uppermost than our petty vested, regional and political interests instead of merely loudly talking and doing practically nothing to translate the develop ever elusive national consensus for construction of multi-purpose Kalabagh dam as already lot of water is going and going as sheer waste for years together in the Arabian Sea much more than what is essentially required to pass through under the Kotri Barrage ?


n            The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.

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