‘Consensus must on dams’

- File Photo

– File Photo

DAWN, KARACHI, 18th SEPTEMBER 2013: Provinces need to reach consensus for the construction of mega dams to improve water security and address power crisis.

This was the take home message for the participants at a seminar titled ‘Our Life, Our Sindhu River’, held under the aegis of the Sindh Abhyas Academy (SAA) at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) on Tuesday.

According to Federal Flood Commission estimates the country loses out Rs240 billion worth revenue as it does not have the capacity to store 40 million acre-feet (MAF) of flood water which ends up in the Arabian Sea.

Director SAA at SZABIST Dr Ghazala Rahman Rafiq introduced the speakers including water expert and former chairman of the Technical Committee on Water Resources, AGN Abbasi and irrigation system expert, Idrees Rajput.

The two gentlemen gave an interesting, albeit a conflicting insight into the issue of building large-scale dams.

“After the Water Apportionments Accord (WAA) 1991, Sindh has been receiving less than its share of water. As a result, the Indus delta is suffering due to inadequate fresh water inflow and less nutrient rich silt. If the proper quantum of water to the delta is not maintained, it will die,” Rajput warned.

Giving a rundown of the possible dams in Pakistan, he said: “Due to logistical, defence and economic viability issues, Katzara Dam in Skardu and Akhori Dam are not feasible. So far there is no progress on the Diamer-Bhasha dam, which if constructed would offer a storage capacity of 6.4 MAF and 4500MW of power. Kalabagh Dam will offer a storage capacity of 6.1MAF and 2400MW power but it has become a controversial topic.”

Answering a question as to why a dam needs to be built in Kalabagh, he said: “You need mountains and a rock bed so that there is little seepage of water. In Sindh, there is no such potential site. The only place in Pakistan is Kalabagh in Punjab.”

He opined that the lack of trust made Kalabagh Dam controversial.

On the subject of why new dams are needed in the country, he said that the storage capacity of the Tarbela and Mangla dams was down by 29 per cent and 15pc respectively, due to silting. “Water stored in Kharif is consumed in ensuing Rabi and no water remains for early Kharif.”

He was of the opinion that both Bhasha and Kalabagh dams were the need of the hour.

AGN Abbasi spoke at length about the wrongs that Kalabagh Dam would aggravate.

“The Indus Water treaty of 1960 was ‘mediated by the World Bank. That is the first time when Sindh’s share was taken away from it. The mediators were unfair when they brokered this dead. They should have at least assessed the impact of the deal on Sindh which continue to suffer,” he said.

Explaining the 1960 treaty to the audience that mostly consisted of young students, the elder gentleman said that some 33MAF water was ‘handed over to India in a platter’ while the neighbour has also been allowed to develop over a million acres of irrigated land without any restrictions.

“Kalabagh Dam is not in the interest of the country. Its feasibility study of was carried out in 1984 and is useless in 2013.”

Stressing that the people in Pakistan were becoming apathetic towards the plight of Sindh and Indus, he summed up: “Bhasha was to begin in 2006 and be completed by 2013. Sadly this did not happen. Bhasha offers a middle ground that is important for Sindh.”

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