The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday said construction of Kalabagh dam could be genuine guarantor of Pakistan’s survival. After Diamer Basha and Mohamand dam, we would build Kalabagh dam as well, if the nation stays united,” he said while addressing a ceremony in Lahore. The Chief Justice said a plan to construct Kalabagh dam was not abandoned, but experts insisted in their research that its construction was not immediately possible.
Previously active lobbies against Kalabagh dam are now opposing the construction of all big dams. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has remarked that elements hell bent on creating hurdles in the way of building dams are traitors and enemies of the state. The remarks came during proceedings of Suo motu case at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry against free extraction of ground water by bottled water companies. Hinting at the invoking of Article 6 of the constitution—applicable in high treason case—against the elements opposing new dams the CJP said he was trying to determine if the scope of the article allowed it to be invoked against opponents of this cause. “I received a WhatsApp message opposing the dam building effort. I will work relentlessly in regard,” the Chief Justice said. “Everyone opposing this effort is a traitor and enemy of the state.”
Out of all feasible sites for big dams on River Indus, Kalbagh dam site is the most ideal location for water storage and power generation. It is because of its multiple benefits that international lending agencies were always willing to extend loans on concessional terms to finance this multidimensional project. The dam storage has the capacity to provide 6.5 million acre feet water to 7 million cultivable lands in the provinces of KPK, Punjab and Sindh. One million acres of arid land in southern districts of KPK can be irrigated through high level canals, making this food commodities deficient province not only self reliant in the production of food grains, vegetables and fruits but will create surplus for exports.
The project was approved for financing by the World Bank and its total cost was $ 6 billion in 1967. Electricity production potential is 36000 megawatt, per unit cost of which is Rs.1.5 as compared with Rs.17 per unit of thermal generation. Had the project been launched on time the abnormally high power tariff charged by IPPs would have been avoided and Ease of Doing Business Index would have been favourable for domestic and foreign investment.
After commissioning of Tarbella Dam in 1975, Kalabagh dam could have been launched and would have been completed by 1882. But as Sindhi PPP Prime Minister Z.A Bhutto was pursuing his agenda of destroying the economy of Pakistan with his deliberate policy of nationalising private enterprises including all industries and banks, therefore, he was not interested in the construction of Kalabagh dam. The strong opposition of Benazir Bhutto against the construction of this dam in 1988 and now the stance of PPP leadership against all storage dams reflect an attitude against national interest. The media talk of Sind Chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah against Diamer Bash dam at the Mausoleum of Quid-i- Azam the other day and the ;position taken by the provincial minister Nasir Hussain Shah in private TV Channel talk show “Aiteraz Hai” once again brings the anti-big dams cat of PPP leaders out of the bag.
The financial losses accrued due to delays in the in the implementation of Kalabagh project have soared up to Rs. 180 billion a year. Added to it is the loss of precious water resources loss of $ 6.12 billion per year due to superfluous flow of 30million acre feet water from Kotri barrage into the Arabian Sea. Some water experts have estimated this loss $ 21 billion.
The criminal neglect of building storage dams by successive governments from mid 70s, Pakistan has become a water stressed country with looming threat of water starved one. The current water storage capacity is hardly for 36 days. Silting has reduced water storing capacity in the Tarbella Dam reservoir from 13.681 million acre feet to 9.360 million acre feet. The water storage capacity of Mangla dam has also declined. Other countries have 130 days water storage capacity. To avert the danger of water starvation, the option of building Kalabagh dam should not be put on hold indefinitely for the sake opposition from PPP and ANP leadership who are not willing for evolving consensus on this project of supreme national interest.