Kalabagh dam dilemma

One of the burring and most debated issues in print and electronic media now a day is the opposition to the construction of Kalabagh dam, ignoring an informed discussion on its merits and demerits. One may think Is Kalabagh dam is frown upon and rejected for purely political reasons or the concerns raised are genuine? Why coming to life of this multidimensional mega project has been resisted tooth and nail by the leaderships of mainstream political party PPP and self proclaimed nationalist regional party ANP and Sindhi nationalist groups for the past 33 years?

The province of Sindh is more affected by the prevailing water shortages in rivers and dams. Quite recently, Chairman WAPDA Lt General (R) Muzamil Hussan has made an offer to handover control of Kalabagh dam to the provincial government of Sindh to allay their misgivings about it.

A leading English daily newspaper has criticized and belittled the importance and utility of this project of national interest the other day in its editorial titled “Beyond Kalabagh dam” without highlighting its pros and cons. Moreover, it failed to suggest alternatives for averting the ever increasing water crisis. Contrary to this, the neutral and professionally competent water experts comprising hydro-engineers, reputed big dams consultants and seismologists have unanimously declared this project a foundation stone for tackling the impending threat of water shortage. In certain regions of Punjab and Baluchistan water table has gone under 750 feet. The only and foremost feasible option at present is the construction of this dam accompanied with water conservation practices.

The plan of Kalabagh dam was conceived in the decade of 1960s. Detailed human population and livestock survey along with geological survey were carried out. Comprehensive feasibility and project cost documents were prepared. International lending institutions including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank gave a green signal for its financing after the project cost approval. Land had been acquired and construction of residential colonies was about to start but Z.A Bhutto government shifted it to the back burner.

Kalbagh dam project was brought to the front burner by the Government of General Zia. The financiers were once again approached and their nod for financing was obtained, even the pre-requisite documentation for floating international tenders were compiled and completed. Vested political interest appeared on the scene to torpedo this fruitful project of national development and peoples’ prosperity. The farcical bogey of sinking the districts of Nowshera, Charsadda and Swabi was raised merely as political gimmick and point scoring from mid 80s and onward. The theory of backward flooding from Kalbagh dam into the Kabul River is nothing but a conspiracy theory because it is not supported by concrete facts and figures. The deluge of July 2010 that affected Nowshera and Charsadda was the not the result of backward flow from River Indus. The damage was mainly caused by the forward flow of flood water of Kabul River, its tributaries, Swat River and Jindi River. Every big dam has spillways to release the pressure of flood water and prevent backward flooding.

Launching and completion of this project alone is not a panacea for solving the water crisis, rather it will mitigate up to great extent the water scarcity. India is diverting a substantial proportion of water flow of River Neelum through Kishan Ganga dam and that of River Chenab through Rattle dam, which all the more make Kalabagh dam inevitable. In addition to this dam Pakistan needs launching of more dams upstream Tarbella including Diyamer Basha, Dasu, Katzara and Satpara.

Last but not the least water conservation methods should be put into practice to ensure optimum utilization of available water resources. The concept of water conservation is not an alien one because it had been in practice since Greek and Roman eras. There are numerous methods of water conservation. Micro irrigation, bottle and pitcher irrigation drip irrigation etcetera. Bringing these conservation technologies will not only supplement the water use efficiency but also ensure food security, which is one of major problems of millions of people in Pakistan.


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