The deliberate neglect of building storage dams by successive governments from mid 70s, Pakistan has become a water stressed country, having a capacity of storing water for hardly 36 days. Silting has reduced the storage capacity in the Tarbella dam reservoir from 13.681 Million Acre Feet (MAF) to 9.360 MAF. The water storage capacity of Mangla Dam reservoir has also substantially declined. Other countries of the world have 130 days storage capacity.
Water Resources secretary Sohail Ahmad Khwaja, while briefing the Senate Committee on water scarcity regarding water availability in the country and its storage said that the current water available resources are 138 MAF with a storage capacity of 13.7 million acre feet. It is only 10 percent of the available water resources.
After rigorous deliberations, a National water policy was conceived a few months back. All provinces agreed to water charter according to which it was decided that no matter which political party holds the rein of power, there shall be no change in the policy until 2030 on account of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs). However, the bitter fact is that that most of the targets Of Minimum Development Goals (MDGs) have not been achieved. That is why former disqualified Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif had to skip the UN meeting on SDGs in 2016 to hide his incompetence, skewed priorities of his government and escape embarrassment.
In the wake of National Water Policy, agreement was reached among the federating units for building Basha and Mohamand dams. But the fact remains that it were the directives of Supreme Court that paved the way for fast- tracking the launching of these dams. Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar announced a fund for receiving donation in the fund for dams’ construction. Government employees and general public are depositing their donations in the bank account opened by the court for this purpose. The Apex Court constituted an Implementation Committee of Diamer Basha and Mohamand Dasm (ICBDM).
Negotiations are being held to arrange finances of $ 2 billion from Asian Infrastructure investment Bank and Swiss Bank for Basha dam. About 90 percent land acquisition process has been completed for construction of this dam, having capacity to generate 4500 MW electricity. It has water storage capacity of 8.1 million acre feet. Mohamand Dam has a storage capacity of 1.28 million acre feet and power generation potential of740 MW. After the completion of these hydropower projects the water storage capacity will rise to 56 days.
If the leadership of political parties adopts reasonable attitude and give preference to national interest, then consensus can be built for the construction of the most suitable hydropower project of Kalabagh dam, which has been delayed since 1975. The dam has water storage capacity of 6.1 million acre feet and power generation potential of 2400 MW. At present Pakistan throws available water resources of $ 21 billion into the sea every year. It is the animosity of political leadership towards storage dams on three westerly rivers that Indian delegation of Water Commission in their recent meeting with Pakistani Water Commission in Lahore gave a slap in the face when they referred to Pakistan’s failure to construct dams as per the provisions of Indus Basin Treaty of 1960. Former Caretaker Minister for Water and Power, barrister Ali Zafar described opposition to Kalabagh dam as conspiracy of the enemies of Pakistan.
The province of Sindh is more affected by the water shortages in rivers and dams. But the myopia of PPP leadership and that of Sindhi Nationalist Parties is a stumbling block in achieving consensus on Kalabagh dam. To allay their misgivings about this project, Chairman WAPDA General (R) Muazzamil Hussain made an offer in the Senate Standing Committee meeting to handover control of Kalbagh Dam to the province of Sindh after its completion. In Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, the leadership of Awami National Party has failed to substantiate their ant-Kalabagh dam stance with authentic and detailed technical data. This ante of imaginary fear about drowning of some districts of the province and mantra of deluge is nothing but a political gimmick for survival.
Political leaders and people of the five southern districts believe that the dam will provide irrigation for one million acre of fertile land. This is what former Chairman WAPDA Engineer Shamsul Mulk and former advisor to President Musharraf Dr. Alman Shah have been emphasising about the utility of Kalabagh dam for the People of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Let us hope the new government will succeed in removing the smoke screen created by the vested interest against Kalabagh dam and implement water conservation strategies for conserving wastage of water resources during irrigation.