Sumayya Khalid


Allah has gifted Pakistan with great water resources.  Underground water reserves, monsoon rainfall and Himalayan are main sources of water supply. But due to lack of inadequate water storage capacity and excessive utilization of groundwater Pakistan is running out of its accessible water reserves. The availability of water in Pakistan was 5,100 cubic meters per person in 1951, which at present has been dropped down to 1,100 cubic meters. It is further expected to drop to 700 cubic meters by the year 2025. This condition is termed as physical water scarcity. Pakistan name has appeared at the fourth spot on a list of 15 most water-scarce nations of the world. On the world water day (March 22, 2018) Dr Nuzhat Khan, Principal at Institute of Oceanography stated that in the next 20 years water scarcity will kill over 40% of the people. It is a serious problem which might lead toward a new world war” (Source The Express Tribune newspaper published on March 23, 2018).

Water scarce condition and drought has forced the countries to implement the conservation strategies.  Islam does not permit us excessive water utilisation. In Islamic history, we can observe Hazrat Hajira’s struggle for water in the scorching desert under the intense heat of the sun. As a gift of Allah water sprouted from the gravel soil. Allah almighty liked this effort so much that He made this an essential part of Hajj till the Day of Judgment. Also to avoid water wastage its cessation with stones and stocking it for a long time was the first step to water storage, which directed us toward the construction of dams. The construction of dams in Pakistan is vital. Only 2 major dams have been built after 1947, while Turkey and India have constructed 65 and 24 dams respectively during the same duration.  The country can produce about 41,722 megawatts of electricity by hydro means, while it is only producing 6,599 MW at present. There is around 35,123 MW of hydro potential that can be used to meet electricity requirement and our dependence on oil for generation of electricity can be decreased (source: research article ‘Hydropower use in Pakistan: Past, Present and future’ published in Science Direct ).

Opposition and controversy

The Kalabagh Dam (KBD) is planned to be located on the Indus River at around 120 miles downstream of Tarbela Dam. The volume of Kala Bagh Dam is 6.1 million acre-feet (MAF). This plan had been negated due to disapproval from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The opponents from Sindh have the main objection that if it is constructed, Sindh will be rendered infertile.Another controversy is that two additional canals will be constructed downward of Indus river after Kalabagh dam construction. Due to this water share of Sindh will be reduced.

From Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah the major opposition is that due to its construction Nowshehra will drown.  Another controversy is that plains of Pabbi, Mardan and Swabi will be severely affected by waterlogging and salinity. A large number of people will have to migrate.

Answers by experts

Dams do not consume water instead of these store water and supply this water for irrigational purposes. Experts agree that Sindh will get approximately 40 lakhs acres of water which will be twofold than 20 lakhs acres feet which Punjab Province will be getting additionally. So the doubt that Sindh Province will turn into the barren land is baseless. Currently, seven canals are carrying water from Indus River to irrigate the lands of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and Punjab. These 7 canals can withdraw around 65000 cusecs of water from Indus river while the capability of 2 canals to be constructed downward of Kalabagh dam will be much less than this. If Sindh is getting its share of water after these 7 canals then what loss will occur with 2 small canals? Kalabagh dam will be 80 km long. From there the Nowshera is 110 kilometres away. Also even if the dam is filled to its ends, the height of Nowshera will be 60 ft. above that level. So, the story of submerging of Nowshera does not have any truth. Another objection about the cultivated area is also baseless. Kalabagh dam 90 feet lower than the plains of Swabi, Mardan and Pabbi can’t affect the cultivable area. The expected people to be affected by the development of Kalabagh Dam will be 83,000. 48,500 people from Punjab and 34,500 from KPK will be displaced. Alternate irrigated land and resettlement plan will be provided to the affectees. The affected people will be settled along the periphery of the reservoir in new model villages having school, dispensaries, electricity, roads, modern facilities of water supply and other civic facilities. The affected people will enjoy the improved and better environment. Provision of irrigated land is another main incentive not previously practised in Pakistan. The resettlement package suggested for Kalabagh is most attractive and innovative than those earlier adopted for Tarbela and Mangla Dams.

Project Benefits

It can preserve and store water during flood season and from rivers Indus, Kabul and Swat which currently is falling into the Arabian sea. This stored water can be used further for irrigational purposes during low flow seasons. Economic return due to irrigation orientation of the project will be highest. 800,000 acres of barren land of KPK will be irrigated with the increase in the level of the river. This area is about 100-150 feet above river level. When the level of the river is elevated, it will be irritated easily. Around 1,000,000 acres of land of Sindh Province will also be irrigated from the reservoir of water in the same way.

Kalabagh Dam will also produce 3600 MW of electricity, which when will bring down the cost of electricity. Kalabagh would reduce the severity and frequency of flood. Direct benefits of Kalabagh Dam would be about Rs. 25 billion per annum. So, the investment cost of this project will be repaid within a very short duration of 9-10 years.

Consequences of not building kalabagh dam

Darkness, hunger and Poverty will be our fate if we will not construct dams to store water, which is depleting rapidly. He said the nation will not forgive people who are opposing Kalabagh Dam for their own interests. Due to the silence of government over Kalabagh dam, Pakistan is suffering annually a loss of Rs.132 billion (former LCCI vice-president Abdul Basit). We are dumping water of 21 billion dollars’ worth into the Arabian Sea every year due to insufficient water conservation system. According to the experts, our present dam storage capacity is total 30 days of water. Shockingly, Pakistan has lost 1570 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water in last 38 years which alone could have subsidized 636 billion dollars to its agriculture GDP. A huge quantity of water which has gone as waste in the Arabian Sea would have generated 430,000 MW electricity if had been preserved in dams.

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