Small dams inevitable to avert floods, achieve autarky in food

F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: Breaking the 30-year records of torrential rains, the August 27 flash floods that started in River Swat from Upper Kalam and Mataltan valleys had affected approximately 30 million people and unleashed destruction to public properties, infrastructure, and agriculture worth billions of rupees while passing through Dir, Bajaur, Mohmand, Charsadda, Nowshera and DI Khan districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Destroying hotels in Kalam and Bahrian in Swat, standing crops on thousands of acres and orchards in Dir, Charadda, Nowshera, DI Khan and Tank districts, the unprecedented flash floods also penetrated into the tunnels of under construction Mohmand dam and caused damages not only to protection dyke but also inundated Charsadda and Mohmand districts.

“Besides humans and property losses, the devastation of floods to agriculture and national economy was immense and beyond our imagination,” said Deputy Collector Irrigation, Engr Abdul Wadood Khan while talking to APP.

He said while quoting a report of flood cell of the Irrigation Department of August 28 that over 20 million cusec of flood water passed through river Kabul in Nowshera district in one hour i.e. between 7pm to 8pm causing colossal losses to humans, properties, agriculture, and national economy.

“Had new dames, especially small and mediums size dams constructed in time, the water could have stored and utilized for irrigation in the water scared country,” he said, adding “One cusec water was sufficient to irrigate one-acre wheat or rice crops and its waste might cause Rs 140,000 wheat and Rs10,400 rice per 40KG respectively.

He said that Pakistan was blessed with plenty of small and big rivers gifted with natural sites for construction of more dams to avert floods and address the longstanding water woes of the country.

“We have more than 24 big and small rivers including five in Punjab, four in Sindh, eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and seven in Balochistan.

These rivers had numerous suitable natural sites for construction of small, medium and big dams to cater food requirement for our over 210 million population, which he said, was growing with two percent growth rate.

Engr Wadood said these rivers were endowed with a number of potential sites at Diamir Bhasa, Dasu Kohistan, Kalabagh on River Sindh, Mohamad and Kalam on River Swat, Shalman Khyber on River Kabul, Tangi on River Kurram in North Waziristan, Kaghan-Naran on River Kunhar for construction of big and small water reservoirs.

Giving details of dams constructed worldwide, he said, about 46,000 dams were constructed across the globe including 22,104 dams by China, 5,334 by India, but unfortunately, Pakistan had built only about 150 small and large dams.

Engr Wadood said that small dams were being preferred mostly in developing countries like SAARC for irrigation and drinking because it was cost and time efficient and didn’t require foreign investment as compare to big dams.

Small dams could easily be constructed in a short span of two to three years while big dams mostly require 10 to 15 years, he said, adding that Pakistan would require additional 76 MAF water by 2050 which was only possible by constructing small dams to meet the demand.

Despite having enormous water potential, he said Pakistan was gradually moving to the list of water-scared countries where most of living creatures including humans, animals, plants, wildlife, mammals and reptiles were facing the looming threats of water and food scarcity in the wake of rapid population growth.

The National Water Policy (NWP) 2018 has revealed that Pakistan was heading towards a situation of water shortage due to lack of dams, which may lead to food insecurity for all living creatures in next few years.

“The per capita surface water availability has significantly declined from 5,260 cubic meters per year in Pakistan in 1951 to around 1,000 cubic meters in 2016. This quantity is likely to further drop to 860 cubic meters by 2025, marking Pakistan’s transition from a water stressed country to a water scarce country,” the policy revealed.

Terming findings of the water policy alarming, Tauheed Khan, former Conservator Forests KP told APP that it was a time to swiftly shift our approach from construction of big dams to small water reservoirs.

He said that despite the fact that Pakistan had witnessed 22 high to very high floods during last 55 years, no attention was paid to small, medium and large dams since long, which could result in droughts and more flooding in future.

He said small dams were only remedy to store flood and rainy water mostly in arid areas like Karak, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat, DI Khan, DG Khan, Bhakkar, Bahawalpur, Multan, Tharparkar besides merged areas of KP to minimize impact of natural disasters.

The Spokesman of Small Dams Irrigation Department told APP that 24 small dams in different districts of KP with storage capacity of 75,008-acre feet (AF) having 49,523 acres cultivated command areas (CCA) were being constructed with the financial assistance of the federal government.

Pezu dam in Lakki Marwat, Khattak Bandhan dam in Kohat, and Makh Banda dam in Karak were completed by federal government. Similarly, Ichar and Manchura dams at Mansehra, Chashma Akora Khel dam in Karak, Sarozai dam in Hangu, Sanam dam in Lower Dir, Bada dam and Ulta dam in Swabi were constructed jointly by the federal and provincial governments.

Seven medium dams including Bara dam in Khyber, Tank Zam in Tank, Shiekh Haider Zam, Chaudwan Zam, Daraban, and Kora Nullah in DIKhan and Larzan small dam in Tank with water storage capacity of 520,884 AF covering 171,748 CCA besides 31.5-megawatt power generation capacity were in design stage.

He said designs of seven medium dams including Barwasa and Sher Dara Swabi, Sumri Payan Kohat, Surkhaway Mardan, Naki Nowshera, Shaheed Banda Charssadda and Tora Warae Hangu having the total accumulative water storage capacity of 13,014 AF with 14,935 acres CCA were completed.

The spokesman said that 37 small and medium dams were constructed in KP including 15 operated by KP government while 11 supervised by WAPDA and ten were constructed in merged districts having 0.1377 million-acre CCA and 0.3414 AF water storage capacity.  (APP)