Water Crisis and Kalabagh Dam – Where is Pakistan Headed?
Pakistan is currently ranked on the list of water-scarce countries and may run out of water as early as 2025, as per a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report. In 1951, 5000 cubic meter water was available per person and now the figure has dropped to only 800 cubic meters. This spells alarming consequences for the future generation as the country is slowly being depleted of nature’s precious resource. Let’s see how Kalabagh dam can be a solution to the water crisis and the roadblocks in its way.
From the time Pakistan came into being, only two dams have been built. This depicts the country’s misfortune in its leaders it has come under over the years. 70 percent of our water comes from melting glaciers and 25 percent from the rain. So, Pakistan is basically dependent on finite resources which, due to global warming, are rapidly running out. Yet all of the past regimes never addressed the issues that truly mattered to the nation’s betterment and prosperity. Now the time has come when the country is on the verge of natural disaster.
The country is known for mass floods in the past years, which if efficiently controlled and directed would result in lessening the threat of water scarcity as well as preserving the cities and countless lives. Currently, Pakistan has three big reservoirs Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma which can store water for up to 30 days.
WAPDA chairman addressed the Senate body and briefed them about the water situation. He stated that building Kalabagh dam is the surest way to effectively deal with the current water crisis. It will also generate 3,600-MegaWatt electricity and will have the capacity to hold 6.1 million acre-feet (MAF) of water. He also added that if Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams are not built in short order then the country will be facing an unavoidable water crisis.
Kalabagh dam case has been scheduled to be heard on 9 June in apex court’s Karachi registry. Chief Justice of Pakistan has also ordered to schedule other water-crisis related cases. For this case, he has also called forth water experts. He ensures on finding a legal solution for the water issue as it means securing future for coming generations. He was grim in addressing that not a single political party has included resolution of water-crisis in their agenda.
Kalabagh dam does have several advantages particularly related to irrigation capacity. The population of Pakistan is rapidly increasing which will inadvertently cause a shortfall of country’s resources. There is an imminent need for storing the rainwater as well as the water from swiftly vanishing glaciers of our mountains. This mega project ensures strengthening our country backbone of irrigation economy as well as the production of clean production of electricity.
The arguments against the Kalabagh dam is from three different perspectives from three different provinces which are Sindh, KPK, and Baluchistan. This discord has been going on for the last 30 years.
The Kalabagh dam runoff will irrigate the farmlands of Punjab and KPK, but according to International water distribution laws, Sindh holds the precedence in that right. The water only flows downstream from Indus because of rain and the Sindhis fear that water will stop flowing once the Dam is established. There are also major environmental consequences for them if a dam is established on Indus River.
KPK has some major reservations as well. They claim that though the dam will be in their province, however, they will not have access to its produced electricity which ultimately will be provided to Punjab region. There is another major concern involving the Nowshera District, which as expertise suggests, will be submerged due to intense water-logging as water levels in city areas up to 200 km away from the dam will rise.
Baluchistan though not directly affected claims that smaller provinces not given priority in national issues is a somber situation.
Hindrances to Kalabagh Dam and Why?
Three provinces have already ruled against the establishment of the Kalabagh Dam so it should be a closed chapter. Speaking on the water crisis, several politicians gave suggestions on the resolution of the issue, so as to not to rely on Kalabagh dam. These suggestions include
- Increasing the capacity of already built dams.
- Smaller dams should be constructed on River Swat and River Kabul. Construction of Muda Dam on River Swat can yield 450 MegaWatt of electricity and it has a capacity of one MAF of water storage.
- Construction of greater Thal Canal should be a priority.
- Diamer-Bhasha should be the most pressing issue which needs swift venture even more than Kalabagh.
- The delivery system of water is highly inefficient and results in major water loss, this problem should be addressed also in order to fight the water crisis.
Overall, the recommendations focus on constructions of smaller dams and reservoirs, rather than depending on controversial Kalabagh dam. According to a study, Pakistan can store around 10 million acre-feet of water through rainwater. Pakistan is an agricultural country, it is an adequate figure in terms of agricultural as well as industrial needs. A non-corrupt and determined regime, whose priority is the prosperity of the nation, is the key.
The policy-makers of this country showcased their short-sightedness in terms of not reaching a definitive conclusion on Kalabagh dam. Their incompetence has dragged the country backward and has failed to fulfill the responsibility to their country. An extensive water-related policy is the need of the hour, as well as confrontation with India on water rights. It is crystal clear that India aims to deprive us of our water rights.