My two cents on Kalabagh Dam

“We never know the worth of

water till the well is dry”

With the current debate going on once again about whether or not to construct the ever so controversial Kalabagh Dam , the idea was first proposed in 1953, six decades ago. You read it right, six decades ago. This project is riddled with political controversies and has for a long time been neglected when it comes to making informed and well-intentioned choices. When it comes to making informed decisions, there are meagre studies conducted that actually highlight the positive impacts of this project. The last research conducted over this was back in 1999 which included the political interface of the project and the controversies created by all the four provinces along with their apprehensions.

Let me enlighten you all about the apprehensions; the biggest objection is that Sindh will have its share of water being curtailed as a result of the construction of Kalabagh and the fact that it will irrigate the farmlands of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Recently, I came across an article published in Feb 2015, which stated how Sindh had lost 3.5M acres to sea since 1956.

I would like to add my two cents here in the light of true technical aspects. An annual average of over 38 Million Acre Feet (MAF) escaped below Kotri after adjustment of future abstraction outside Indus Basin. This loss could still be around 36 MAF. Out of this, an average of over 26 MAF per year could be effectively controlled. Hence the apprehension regarding less water availability and rendering Sindh deserted becomes null and void. Also, according to WAA 1991, the new water shares clearly show that Sindh would have a greater share as compared to any of the other provinces.

We should not forget the dispute between Punjab and Sindh back in 1993-94 over the shortage of 0.2 MAF during maturing of Rabi and sowing of Kharif and how the river had regular flow patterns despite the predictions.

Pakistan is still considered a third world country where problems like power shortage and less availability of water are in dire need to be taken care of. The researchers found it out a decade ago that Pakistan’s water resources had been running short lately, but no one had time to ponder on the sensitivity of the issue back then, and now everyone is yakking about how Pakistan would be facing water scarcity soon. Let me tell you a bitter reality, Pakistan is actually among the countries which are falling under the crucial line marked by World Bank as a water scarce country as declination in per capita water availability every year.

India, after the British decolonisation, was founded in the same year as Pakistan and still managed to have 4000 dams in the past 70 years. Whereas, Pakistan has only 150 dams out of which our major reservoirs Mangla and Tarbela are already hitting their dead levels and their storage capacity is already decreasing as a result of siltation and sedimentation. Moreover, the trans-boundary water issues between India and Pakistan have taken an entirely new level, after the inauguration of Kishan Ganga Dam. This is how it works; the other party would not stop, just because we are blind to our needs. It’s high time that the transboundary water issues among the provinces must be resolved over a mutual consensus for the dear homeland Pakistan.

The world has stories regarding controversial dams; been solved and now serving their purpose in their respective countries. Three Gorges Dam in China is the living example of a dam which faced the highest controversy but the time proved how correct was the decision to construct that dam.

I have observed and witnessed that most of the Pakistanis don’t even know the reason behind the trending hashtag of “No to Kalabagh dam” and have no knowledge of the technical aspects of the project. For those who say that there are more and better alternatives to Kalabagh dam , the conventional non-renewable energy supplies in Pakistan are LPG (1%), Coal (13%), Nuclear (1%), Gas (45%) and Oil (29%). For a second, I’ll assume that coal is a better option than Kalabagh dam , how is that a better option when it is going to add tons of carbon emissions to already polluted environment and do nothing but add to the already globally warmed country that we have become. Let’s also not forget the health disasters we face every year, like smog over.

Coming to the renewable energy resources, if we install wind turbines, the power generation capacity is 900 MW, which is inconsiderable in meeting the electricity shortage of 2000 MW in winters and 4000 MW in summers. The Kalabagh dam , however, would generate 3600MW. Moreover, the unit price of electricity produced by hydropower is half the time produced by solar or wind energy. Are we ready to pay more than the usual electricity bills folks? I am guessing NO!

It’s utterly distressing to see how authorities have failed to settle this issue for past few decades and even more disturbing to see how layman reacts to it without knowing the ground realities. If Kalabagh dam is not to be built at all, then, natural disasters coupled with power shortages will continue to ravage the present situation. Giving an example of Cape Town, if we will keep on neglecting the need of the hour, the time is not too far when we will be waiting for “Day Zero” as well. So, it’s time we must take a selfless decision by resolving transboundary water issues among provinces, by the fair implementation of Water Accord 1991, conduct EIA’s with all the stakeholders involved and their problems very well taken care of.

I’ll leave up to you to decide whether the dam should be built or not, given the facts of course.

It’s time that we stand up to save Pakistan, save ourselves and our coming generations from the irrevocable catastrophes like drought and famine. Support Kalabagh Dam as W.H. Auden once said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”

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