Pakistan Observer

KB dam: Bone of contention

Hafsa Arif Rana

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - Kalabagh Dam project was designed in 1984, with the assistance of the United Nations development programme supervised by the World Bank for the client water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan, but due to non-availability of funds and non-settlement of distribution of its water between four provinces its construction is delayed. As a result of this delay of 28 long years in the implementation of this project our great country has suffered immensely in the agriculture and the energy sectors directly and the industrial and the man power sectors indirectly. All these negative effects have, no doubt, contributed in a big way to the alarming situation faced by the national economy which we are witnessing now.

Bashir A Malik former chief technical advisor of the United Nation and World Bank has said “Sindh and KPK would become drought area in the year to come, if Kalabagh Dam was not built”. At the same time former KPK chief minister Shamsul Mulk has stated that the Kalabagh Dam would be helpful in erasing poverty from KPK, as it would irrigate 800,000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100-150 feet above the level of river Indus. Kalabagh Dam would provide 6.5 million acre feet of water to cultivate seven million acres of currently barren land.

This is an addition to 3,800 MW of electricity it would provide in response to the push toward side lining Kalabagh altogether in favor of Basha Dam project, Engineer Anwer Khurshid stated that “Basha Dam is no substitute for Kalabagh Dam not because of its altitude which is high enough, but because no irrigation canals can be taken out from it because of the hilly terrain. Kalabagh Dam is a multipurpose Dam that will store surplus water to irrigate new lands, generate cheap energy and deter floods. This dam is proposed to be constructed at a site named Kalabagh. Decision makers claim that annually 35 MAF of surplus water is wasted in to the Arabian Sea due to its inefficient storage and usage. Master minds behind the dam are of the opinion that Kalabagh Dam will store up to 6.1 MAF of surplus water, which is presently being wasted, and use it efficiently to irrigate nearly 2.4 million acres of new land generate 11,750 KWH of cheap energy and minimize the destruction caused by floods by deterring them. Thus if the dam is given a touch of reality it can resolve the country’s dilemma.

Despite of being in national interest, this project has plunged in to political intrigues and controversies. Kalabagh Dam has invited strong criticism from majority quarters of the state. It has been a bone of contention between the provinces and federal government. Punjab, one of the federating units, has been kind enough to ratify the proposal. All other three provinces have raised a huge hue and cry against the dam KPK, one of the challengers, fears inundation rehabilitation of the inhabitant of Kalabagh. It is widely held that under extreme conditions, the dam could overflow and flood KPK severely.

Pakistan is a third world country that is situated in the north-western part of South Asia. The country is basically an agricultural and industrial country. It is blessed with several mineral resources. Among all them, water enjoys a prominent position. The country faces mountainous region in the North.

A major proportion of its energy needs is produced by dams. Currently, only water which efficient usage and storage can bring a break through and assist the country in such crises. All Pakistanis agree that Pakistan faces a severe water shortage and that some form of water management be implemented soon. Many point out that even if work on Kalabagh Dam were to start tomorrow. It would still take at least three years to complete and commission such a large dam. In the meantime, the water situation would continue to worsen. Smaller dams, barrages and canals must be built before that and water conservation techniques introduced.

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