The ruling political elite knowingly and deliberately delayed the construction of big dam-storages over the past five decades. A number of multidimensional hydropower projects were conceived in the Indus Basin Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 with arbitration efforts of the World, which also provides finances in collaboration of other multilateral donor agencies for mega hydropower projects. The construction of Kalabagh dam was first shelved in mid 70s and then made politically controversial in mid 80s by KP government alone and threw it as political slogan to the ANP. PPP and Sindhi nationalist parties joined the ant-Kalabagh dam bandwagon later when Benazir Bhutto made it a main election campaign slogan in 1988.
Realizing the future water and electricity needs of the country, President Ayub Khan started the construction of, Mangla and Tarbella dams on the Rivers Jhelum and Indus bides Warsak dam on the River Kabul. Surveys and feasibility study for Kalabagh dam were also started which were completed on fast track. But the elected governments ignored the construction of big dams, downstream and upstream Tarbella on the River Indus. The result is that the country, which is currently water stressed, will be heading towards water starved situation by 2025. Disappointed by the political leadership, the people of Pakistan are now anxiously looking up to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian saqib Nisar for tackling the looming large issue of water crisis and likely desertification of fertile cultivable land in Punjab and Southern districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa besides the exacerbated drinking water shortages at present and the acute ones in future.
The Honourable Chief Justice, while presiding over a three member bench on the resumption of hearing pertaining to the construction of Kalabagh dam on Wednesday asserted that its construction is inevitable. Former Chairman WAPDA n engineer Shamsul Mulk, who being its project director has remained versed with the feasibility studies and planning of this project, gave detailed arguments in favour of the dam. Explaining the benefits he cited that China is generation around 30000 thousand megawatts of electricity from dams. “Even India has more than 4000 dams, “he said. We lose billions due to non-construction of dams, Shamsul Mulk added
During the court proceedings, the Chief Justice expressed dismay over elected governments’ failure to reach a consensus on Kalabagh dam. He inquired about the consequences of not constructing dams. “All four provinces will benefit from construction of new dams. It is not about Kalabagh dam, it is about Pakistan, “he added. The top Judge remarked that Quetta and certain areas of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa are already facing water shortages. “I am thinking of halting judicial matters to plan a water seminar instead,” said Justice Mian Saqib Nisar.
Later, the CJP addressed a seminar on water shortages and construction of dams. He said, “It is the duty of the Supreme Court to enforce fundamental rights. We will take the dam issue seriously.”A TV footage of the seminar showed that the Chief Justice of Pakistan very passionately said that he will even beg to save the future generations from acute water shortages.
An Urdu daily newspaper has reported that the CJP also remarked during hearing of this case that we all shall contribute to the fund of this project including the legal fraternity. It is pertinent to mention that Sindhi politicians of PPP and nationalist politicians of this province are now more vocal in voicing their opposition to construction of Kalabagh dam. But it was a Sindhi Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo who made sincere efforts for building consensus on this dam. Imbibed with a true spirit of patriotism and national thinking he held a high level meeting in Governor’s House Peshawar early 1985 to address the reservations of KP government. If the minutes of that meeting are still available on record that will certainly provide a useful input for court proceedings in Kalabagh dam case.
The political leadership is well aware of the fact that Pakistan loses 90 percent rivers flow, accruing an annual loss of 21 billions to the country. It was on May 21 that former minister for water resources Syed Javed Ali Shah told National Assembly that the existing water reservoirs can store only 10 percent of rivers flows. Detailing the storage capacity, he told that big dam storages could store just 14 million acres foot MAF water amounting to just 10 percent. The Minister admitted that inaction regarding new reservoirs, reduction in storage capacity of existing ones due to sedimentation, rapidity of climate change, increase in population and water demand are main factors of water shortages.
According to Indus River Water System Authority (IRSA), the body tasked with managing allocation of country’s irrigation water, somewhere between 9MAF to 10 MAF of water is usually released during Kharif crop sowing season. This year the amount that has been released is 5.8 MAF, a near disastrous shortfall of more than 40 percent. The country and its people urgently need big dam storages on the river Indus both downstream and upstream Tarbella, besides a dam on River Chenab, Monda dam on River Swat and Kurram Tangi dam on River Kurram.