Give top most priority to water issue, dams

THE Federal Cabinet on Tuesday approved Diamer-Bhasha Dam Project (only Dam component) at a total rationalised cost of Rs 474,000 million. The Dam will have a 6.4 MAF live storage capacity and installed power capacity of 4,500 MW. After completion, the project will increase national water storage capacity from 38 days to 45 days and will enhance life span on downstream reservoirs including Tarbela Dam.
The project has obvious advantages and benefits for the country but despite its vital significance the pace of its implementation is pathetic. The then President General Pervez Musharraf announced Water Vision that envisaged construction of Diamer-Bhasha, Kalabagh Akori, Kurram Tungi and Munda dams by 2016. He performed ground-breaking of Bhasha in 2006 which was followed by another groundbreaking by PPP’s Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani yet things have not moved beyond payment of compensation to affected people. This is despite the fact that availability of water situation is very bleak and going by the changing weather patterns it is apprehended that Pakistan is in for trouble if we continued with the criminal negligence of playing politics with the water issue. The situation would become more serious when India completes about three dozen water reservoirs on rivers meant for Pakistan under the Indus Basin Treaty. According to a study carried out by the International Waterlogging and Salinity Research Institute (IWASRI), a subsidiary of WAPDA, about 145 million acre feet of water flows through Pakistan each year, but the country’s existing storage capacity is just 14 million acre feet, meaning it can only store enough water to last 30 days. The international standard is 120 days. The delay in building of dams is not only impacting socio-economic development but the cost of projects is also going up alarmingly. In the case of Bhasha alone, the cost has gone up from original $6.5b to $14b. No doubt, the country is facing financial crunch and it would be difficult to finance the project from its own resources but water security should get priority over all other issues. We must provide necessary resources even if it meant diversion of funds from other sectors and projects as availability of water is becoming a question of life and death for the country.

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