Resolving ongoing water crisis
The ruling political elite deliberately ignored issue of water crisis in future since 1975. They remained oblivious of its grave consequences of climate change effect causing long spell of droughts, devastating floods, and desertification of the agricultural land under cultivation. After the last attempt by a Sindhi Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo early 1985, no serious efforts were made by successive governments to create awareness about the merits and demerits of Kalabagh dam on the basis of valid technical data.
Alternatives of this dam were discussed but concrete decisions were not made about the planning and execution of the storage dams including Diyamer Basha, Katzara and Skardu dams. It was a few months ago that a national water policy was approved in the meeting of Council of Common Interest and Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the construction of water reservoir alone of Diyamer Basha dam on the river Indus upstream Tarbella and Monda storage dam with power station of 730 megawatt. Initial allocations of funds have also been made in the next year federal budget for these two projects which is a welcome step if implemented.
Realizing the anxiety of the people over the prevailing water shortages and colossal yearly loss of water resources of $ 21 billion, Barister Zafarullah Khan had filed a petition at Karachi Registry of Supreme Court of Pakistan seeking a referendum on the contentious issue of building Kalabagh dam. Hearing the petition the top court on Saturday set up a core committee, comprising of water experts, to resolve the water crisis and build the alterative hydropower projects. During the hearing of this petition, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said that controversial projects like Kalabagh dam should only be built with the consensus of all four provinces. He said, “Overcoming water shortage is a matter of life and death for the country. We will not discuss the Kalabagh dam issue right now, as it has the potential of affecting many people. We have to evolve consensus among all provinces on this issue. We must now focus on averting the impending water crises.”Among the Committee members will be Aitizaz Ahsan and former Chairmen WAPDA Shamsul Mulk and Zafar Mahmood. Other experts will later be nominated to the Committee. The Chief Justice of Pakistan will personally monitor this Committee to resolve the issue of water scarcity on priority basis.
The CJP said, “After Eid-ul- Fitr the Law and Justice department will convene seminars for raising public awareness and generating debates. Recommendations will be referred Parliament, enabling the government to formulate relevant laws for implementations. The former Chairmen WAPDA, particularly Engineer Shamsul Mulk has a vast experience about the feasibility studies and implementation procedures of big dams by virtue of his experience in building Tarbella dam. He has also been a project director of Kalabagh dam project when its technical feasibility was being prepared, land was being acquired and sources of foreign funding were being sought for. He is the leading supporter of this dam. The technical members will identify a number of feasible sites for big dams on river Indus and even on river Chenab to provide irrigation water in Punjab province.
In Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, the water projects including Chisma Right Bank Canal and Kurram Tangi dam projects also need implementation on priority basis. Hopefully, the next government will treat the issue of water shortages as national urgency and will make comprehensive legislation by utilizing the valuable input from the core committee for resolving the water crisis in vast national interest.