Tackling of water shortage problem

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Muhammad Zahid Rifat

WATER and power are two important sectors which are causing problems to the people across the country for varying reasons. Electricity load shedding has been there since early 1980s when the people suffered power outages for couple of hours particularly in summer months and duration of power outages was considerably increased when democratic regimes, PPP and PML (N) came into power one after the other between 2008 to 2018. No doubt more than ten thousand megawatts of power generation was added to the system during the last five years but due to inadequate distribution and transmission system which was somehow not updated to commensurate with the increasing power generation could not fully take additional power to pass on the benefit to the domestic and other categories of consumers according to provide them some relief.
As for water is concerned, its shortage is becoming chronic with the passage of time as precious water in huge quantity is going into the Arabia Sea every year as waste due to lack of additional major storage facility. Pakistan can only store water for 30 days and according to the experts it direly needs to narrow the gap between the ever-growing population in unabated, uncontrolled and unchecked population and its mounting needs and the number and capacity of water reservoirs. Experts are already sounding strong warnings every now and then that in the absence of adequate major storage facility and water continuingly going into the sea as waste, the country could face drought like situation as early as 2025.
WAPDA is the national organization looking after both important sectors of water and power and its Chairman Lt General (r) Muzammil Hussain couple of weeks back in his detailed briefing to a Senate Standing Committee on Water in Islamabad talked about Kalabagh Dam and other projects which are under process or implementation by WAPDA for tackling onrushing water shortage problems of the country.
About Kalabagh Dam, WAPDA Chairman said that Kalabagh Dam should be with consensus of all political parties, proposed handing over operational control of the controversial project to Sindh province to address its reservations over the use of water , the reservations of Sindh province regarding Kalabagh Dam are justified while that of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are technically unjustified and stand duly addressed, Kalabagh Dam is the most technically viable project and political consensus is required for building the mega dam.
He pointedly stated that in Pakistan as much as around 50 per cent irrigation water is wasted while in Punjab province the telemetry system has been broken and same is the case in Sindh, water storage capacity of all dams including Tarbela and Mangla and capacity of Tarbela has been reduced by more than 30 per cent, water availability has been considerably reduced and consumption is increasing, we are supplying water to Kachhi Canal but the Balochistan province has not made the required irrigation and water distribution system.
While giving details of short term, medium term and long term water reservoirs and run of the river hydropower projects, he listed difficulties being faced initiation of work on Diamer-Bhasha Dam as Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are not cooperating and Kachhi Canal (Ph 1) was commissioned in September 2017, NaiGaj Dam is scheduled to be completed by June 2019, Muzaffargarh and TP Link Canal is also to be completed by June 2019 and Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) 1 and 111 is to be completed by November 2019 and RBOD 11 is to be worked upon by Sindh government and not WAPDA
This much in short as what the WAPDA Chairman said about his organization is doing for tackling water shortage problem.
According to information gathered by this scribe from official sources, major strategies have been drawn from and are in coherent with the country’s first ever National Water Policy after passage of over 70 years, Pakistan Vision 2025 and 12 Five Year Plan.
The main strategy is prioritizing investments in water sector so as to ensure achieving additional water storage and institutional reforms. Water sector’s strategies and investment areas are augmentation measures such as construction of small and medium dams to overcome the water scarcity issue, conservation measures such as lining of irrigation channels, modernization and rehabilitation of the irrigation system and introduction of high efficiency irrigation system and protection of infrastructure from the onslaught of flood, water logging and salinity.
Since the water sector is of highly complex nature, its management vision cannot be based only on short term or medium term plans, rather it has to be long term plan. However for implementation and monitoring purposes convenience, the Vision 2025 has to be split into short term development plan and the future development strategy in the water sector as such has to be based on new development framework.
As regards expected water availability at farm gate, all efforts will be made to increase the overall water availability at farm gate from 133.50 MAF (million acres feet) to 134.50 MAF by way of surface water supplies through canal withdrawals, canal lining and remodeling, rehabilitation and modernization of existing irrigation system, construction small and medium dams, check dams and retention weirs. About 6.17 Mhm (50.00 MAF) of water is planned to be included in the system from underground fresh water aquifer mainly through private tubewells and water losses of the existing irrigation system will be improved through water conservation measures.
An amount of Rs 33,481 million, as much as 52 per cent of total water sector sector allocation, has been allocated during financial year 2018-19 for construction of large and medium dams including Rs 23,680 million for Diamer Bhasha Dam and Rs 7,825 million for small, check and delay action dams all over Pakistan.
Waterlogged and salt-effected area is to be reclaimed through completion of Right Bank Outfall Drainage system (RBOD 1,11 and 111with an allocation of Rs 9,100 million during the next fiscal 2018-19.
Various studies have pointed out that more than 50 per cent water losses occur in our existing irrigation system. In order to minimize these losses to the maximum extent possible, Rehabilitation and Modernization of Existing Irrigation System programme is to be undertaken gradually through Annual Development Programmes (ADPs) of the provinces in future. However, an amount of Rs 3,200 million has been provided during 2018-19 for the improvement and, rehabilitation and modernization of the irrigation system and lining of irrigation channels in saline zones. Furthermore for ensuring flood management, an amount of Rs 1,000 millions is planned to be incurred on completion of different emergent nature of small dams schemes all over Pakistan.
In terms of large and medium dams, Gomal Zam Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam stage 1, Darawat Dam, Nai Gaj Dam, Naulong Dam, Ghabir Dam, construction of Mangi Dam and Basol Dam,Papin Dam and raising of Baran Dam are the ongoing prioritized projects while Diamer-Bhasha Dam, Mohmand/Munda Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam (stage 11) and Naulong Dam projects are listed as the future interventions in the official documents. These are either at initial stages of feasibility or various levels of their completion.
While small, delay action ad recharge dams are being undertaken in all the four provinces, Rainee Canal (Phase 1) and Kachhi Canal (Phase 1) are ongoing projects in terms of new canals and intra-basin water transfer and Greater Thal Canal (Phase 11), Rainee Canal (Phase 11), Kachhi Canal (Phase 11) and Chashma Right Bank Canal (Lift cum Gravity Canal) are the future intervention projects.
As regards water conservation and eradication of contamination, ongoing prioritized projects include canal lining in all provinces, rehabilitation of irrigation systems in all provinces, remodeling of Warsak Canal and high efficiency irrigation system also in all provinces and future interventions plans include Lining of KB Feeder Upper Canal for water supply to Karachi, continuation of already ongoing projects and construction of Feeder Canal to Manchar Lake to eradicate contamination.
On –going flood management and drainage projects implementation will also continue in the future and a feasibility on rain water harvesting /hill torrents management is in progress and survey and study design for construction of rain water dams along river Indus in Sindh province is also in process as prioritized on-going projects.
To summarize, it may be mentioned here that the prime resolve of the Annual Plan for fiscal year 2018-19 for Water Sector is to prioritize and line up investment for this important sector in the light of National Water Policy and 12th Five Year Plan so as to create new storage facilities and increase system efficiency for water conservation with a broader objective of achieving and ensuing water energy food security.
The plan duly recognizes the dire need for introducing appropriate measures, reforms and knowledge based interventions to make water infrastructure and management system more efficient and sustainable.
National Water Policy provides essentially necessary framework and guiding principles to achieve water security while 12th Five Year Plan sets milestones for system augmentation and resource conservation with the Annual Plan acting as means ti ensure implementation of the National Water Policy and 12th Five Year Plan in the right earnest by all concerned for achieving the desired objectives within the given time framework in the larger national interests of the nation and the country.
—The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad and can be reached at [email protected]

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