IPR stresses urgent increase in water reservoirs

Salim Ahmed

Lahore—The water challenge faced by Pakistan today is bigger than that of the power sector. And it is getting worse everyday. Pakistan must urgently increase its water storage capacity. This was stated in a Fact Sheet issued Tuesday by the Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR).
The Institute recommends that government must start building the Diamer Bhasha Dam forthwith. The scale and complexity of the project requires top-level government leadership.
This will speed up execution in Pakistan and highlight its priority to international donors. Pakistan must re-quest Chinese assistance for the project. Pakistan’s agriculture production fell in fiscal 2015-16. A number of issues constrain agriculture in the country. These include cost of inputs and price volatility of output. Farmers do not get quality and virus resistant seeds. Water availability and its use are equally key issues.
Pakistan is among the most water stressed countries in the world. With silting of dams and a growing population, this will only become worse. Available water was 138.6 MAF in 2014-15. It fell to 133 MAF in 2015-16. An actual flow to canals is 114 MAF. It is reducing each year. Area irrigated by canals has been in long-term decline since the 1990s.
Total gross storage capacity of under 19 MAF is just 14% of available water resource and has not changed from 1980. Per capita dam capacity was 320 cubic meters in 1980. It is 150 now. We have not built a single large dam since Tarbela. Kalabagh has been in terminal debate. Diamer Bhasha has been a permanent work in progress. During this time, net water storage has come down by 30%.
The Fact Sheet recommends urgent execution of Diamer Bhasha. It is a critical project that will increase water and power supply in the country. Bhasha will add 6.4 MAF to our gross storage. This is 35% to 40% of the total existing capacity.

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