Pakistan’s national economy is in dire states. According to a recent report of UNDP, the nation is facing a debt scenario in excess of Rs. 50 trillion ($250 billion). It says that the world’s fifth most populous country is a lower income country potentially capable to be in world’s ten largest economies by 2047. Pakistan is currently facing tremendous economic hazards and challenges.

Kalabagh Dam project has been a slightly controversial multipurpose hydro power project. It is in fact a highly valuable venture largely misunderstood in some sections of the country. Unfortunately, no big water storage dam has been build in last forty years. Consequently we are now facing serious water storages. Having a potential of water storage to the tune of 6.1 maf and power generation potential of 3600MW as verified internationally can vitalize the Pakistan economy in a short time.

Absence of KBD

The denial of Kalabagh Dam to the KP is the greatest betrayal. “We have damaged our water interest more than what India has done by withholding some water of our rivers”, Shamusul Mulk, a former WAPDA Chairman said. In terms of the water accord agreed by all provinces promising water sharing formula, the stored water of Kalabagh Dam Project on implementation would provide the agreed share of water to Sindh also which can revolutionize the economy of Sind province as well. Pakistan has been bestowed with great hydel wealth and it has the fifth largest water irrigation and drainage system in the World. Most of this water is potable which was rare in the world. It is one of the few places in the world where farmers harvested 2 to 3 crops a year. Moreover, Pakistan has one of the largest underground water reserves in the world. “A country with such natural resources cannot be poor”.

The country’s water level would drop to 1,000 M3 (Cubic Meters) per capita in 2025 which is considered to be ‘extreme water scarcity’, while Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs are rapidly losing their storage capacities because of sedimentation. “This is pushing Pakistan towards a national disaster, making the construction of Kalabagh Dam highly imperative.

As a result of the Indus Water Treaty 1960, Pakistan had lost water of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej and because of constant infighting had been unable to fully utilize water of the remaining three rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chennab. On the other hand, India had built 4,291 dams and planned to build another 695 even on Pakistani rivers of Chenab and Jhelum. “Pakistan had only been able to build Terbela and Mangla dams while Kalabagh remains shelved as a pipedream because of internal differences”. As a result, Pakistan wasted 38 maf (million acres feet) of river water every year into the sea.

“If we want to safeguard our future generation from living in a dry, famine-stricken and barren Pakistan and counter the sales pitch of India, we have to build (Kalabagh) dam and, that too, immediately”.

Engr Mumtaz Ahmad khan, a former director of Kalabagh dam has recently said that pro-Indian lobby, IPPs, and corruption mafia are main hurdles in the construction of Kalabagh Dam. “We wasted 130 million acre-feet water in ocean which was sufficient to meet the irrigation requirements for the next five years, besides generating the cheapest 400 megawatt electricity and running all the industry round the clock”.

Resolving conflicts

– the way forward:

The Council of Common Interests was conceived as an institution of great importance in the federal structure of the Constitution which was meant for safeguarding the interest of federation nits and to secure harmonious functioning of the government of federation and provinces. The degree of sanctity and importance attached to the Council of Common Interests is reflected and importance attached to the Council of Common Interests is reflected in its very constitution. The Prime Minister acts as its chairman while the four chief ministers of the federating units with an equal number of members from the federal cabinet to be nominated by the Prime Minister, are its members.

It is highly pragmatic to create a legal frame work at the earliest to give the control of Kalabagh Dam to all provinces concerned to oversee construction and regulatory operational control of the project. The CCI should play a key role in working out a regulatory frame work to satisfy all the provinces and have way for speedy construction of the Kalabagh Dam whose feasibility studies have already been approved internationally.

Disclaimer: Contrarian views are welcome.

— The writer is former adviser Federal Inspection Commission, Govt of Pakistan, and is also chairman of Standing Committee Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He can be reached at mfa00910@gmail.com.