The myth of Anti-Kalabagh Dam stance is going to shatter. Speaking at a news conference, Caretaker Minster for Water and Power barrister Ali Zafar has hinted at foreign involvement in the opposition to the construction of Kalabagh Dam (KBD) and has asked the incoming government to work on building a consensus on it. He very aptly pointed out that India has been watching Pakistan’s inaction over construction of KBD—as well as other dams—and is violating river rights of Pakistan.
The minster disclosed that anti-KBD conferences organized abroad were better organized and seemed better funded than the seminars held in Pakistan. This startling disclosure is noteworthy for the Prime Minister in waiting Imran Khan who is a proven formidable crusader to defeat the conspiracies hatched against the country.
Barrister Ali Zafar lamented that India constructed Kishanganga Hydropower project in violation of 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and then went on to alter the project design after sharing it with Pakistan. He said the New Delhi was also planning to begin work On Rattle Hydropower project as well other dams in violation of the treaty. The Minister deplored that following the IWT, India had managed to build about 4000 dams and reservoirs on the eastern rivers—Sutlej, Bias and Ravi—while Pakistan had not even managed to build KBD. Even the 15.1 million acre feet (MAF) storage from Tarbella and Mangla has declined to 13 MAF. He said it was strange that KBD, which was part of the 1960 plan after the signing of IWT, had not been built so far for the lack of consensus among the provinces and the disagreement kept on increasing over time. But it is bizarre and extremely unfortunate that we have not been able to construct other such dams and reservoirs.
The caretaker minster minister said that KBD is very important. It is life and it should be built as priority, adding Pakistan had been declared a water scarce country, because of its per capita water availability which has dropped to 1000 cubic meters. He said that the caretaker government had considered advice fro international experts, and after discussion with various domestic departments has finalised 10 points reform package for Pakistan’s water priorities. He said that conservation method of water resources by lining canals could save 6.5 million acre feet, which is almost equal to storage capacity of any of the two existing dams, and that is much cheaper than building one.
Barrister Ali Zafar deplored that Pakistan still employing 200 hundred years old agriculture techniques including mechanism to manage flooding. He said it was ironic that nations were irrigating their deserts with modern techniques; while Pakistan is wasting clean drinking water.
The caretaker minister for water and power has done a great service to the nation by unmasking the Anti-Kalabagh Dam lobby and informing the people that well organized Anti Kalabagh Dam conferences have been held abroad with the involvement of foreign elements. It is matter of record that feasibility study had been completed in the government of President Ayub Khan. Land had been acquired for the site of the dam and residential colonies. The project was put on the backburner by first PPP government of Z.A Bhutto. If the process of executing this project had moved on as planned, then launching of KBD would have become a reality without any opposition just after the completion of Tarbella Dam. But the elected government of 1972-77 did not perform the national duty of launching the dam downstream Tarbella on River Indus.
The project was revived in 1980s and at that time the leadership of only one regional political party, Awami National Party and Governor KPK Fazal Haq were opposing its construction. There was no opposition to this project in Sindh and a Sindhi Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo sincerely did a lot of efforts to take the KP government on board and his last minute move to get approval in a high level meeting held in Governors House Peshawar in 1985 could not succeed. Benazir Bhutto jumped on the Anti-Kalabagh Dam band wagon in her election campaign in 1988.
To deflate the balloon of smear campaign against Kalabagh Dam, Chairman WAPDA Lt. General (Retd) Muzzamil Hussain has proposed to give the operational control Of KBD to Sindh in order to address reservations about its share in water consumption. Briefing Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources on June 7, WAPDA Chief said, “Reservation of Sindh are justified and operational control of Kalabagh Dam should be handed over to the province if the dam is built.”
Kalabagh Dam will benefit Khyber Pukhtunkhwa in a big way. Out of 3 million acres cultivable land 1.8 million acres are in the six southern districts of the province. The dam will provide irrigation water to 1 million acres through high level canals, bringing a green revolution. In 2018 elections, the Anti-Kalabagh Dam political parties have been rejected by the people in KP. The humiliating defeat of ANP Supremo Asfaniyar Wali and Chairman Qaumi Wattan Party Aftab Sherpao confirms that the people of the province did not buy the ‘Deluge Theory’ of self serving politicians by building a scenario that KBD will drown the districts of Nowshera and Charsadda. Efforts are needed for achieving consensus on this project.