Kalabagh Dam: Why We Must Build It

According to the Indus Basin Treaty signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan, we had to surrender the three eastern rivers of Sutlej, Bias and Ravi, and were allowed to build reservoirs and dams on the Western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Pakistan was forced to accept an unjust principle of replacing perennial stream water, with man made reservoir water, which had inherent complications.

Today we are facing acute water shortage, and are facing El Nino effect as well, due to climatic changes resulting from the elimination of certain biological organisms. Our population growth rate is around 2%, which is one of the highest in the region. It is estimated that by 2025, Pakistan would become the fourth most populous country in the world. Imagine how hard it would become to feed such a big population with the shortage of resources, when we are already facing problems in providing basic necessities to the existing ones.

Indian Role
Since independence India has been creating problems for Pakistan in terms of the natural resources. For instance the Indus Basin Treaty and now a barrage on river Chenab, through which India would be able to stop or regulate water flow to Pakistan whenever it desires against the provisions of the treaty. On river Jhelum we have already built Mangla dam, which provides electricity and irrigation water for the entire country, through a network of barrages and link canals etc. Leaving these two rivers, the only other dependable source which seems to be outside the grip of India is the river Indus, over which we have built Tarbela dam, which stores only 15% of its water obtained mainly through snow melts in the Himalaya.

Silting of Dams
However the problem is that the lake of Tarbela is silting heavily and this silt load is estimated at 554000 tons per day. This amount of silt cannot be taken out from any reservoir; even if it is supposedly taken out, the problem would be where and how to store it. A silt delta has been formed in the reservoir having width between 31-65 Kms and 68 meters deep, located at 14 kms from the main embankment due to the sedimentation process. WAPDA has been able to contain movement of this silt delta so far, which otherwise could have moved in and choked all power generating turbines due to the seismic activity in the area. The danger is still there and in this regard Tarbela will not be able to serve as a multi-purpose reservoir and will only be suitable for irrigation purposes.
Controversy Surrounding Kalabagh Dam
It is stated that by the time Bhasha dam is completed, in 2016, the usefulness of Tarbela would almost have gone. The only economic option left at our disposal is Kalabagh dam, which is already late and has become controversial mainly due to socio-political misunderstandings, selfish assumptions, misgivings and apprehensions amongst the people of various provinces in the country.

Ironically, all the governments starting from late Z.A Bhutto, in order to lengthen their stay in power, have always avoided this technically feasible and economically sound option, which was declared to be a better site than Tarbela in the 1960s. Tarbela was brought on line first due to political considerations and preferences. It is, therefore, natural to think that national interests have been compromised. Jeopardized and manipulated for the sake of handful people with personal interest.

By year 2050, about 2/3 of the world population could be plagued by water scarcity. It is interesting that while water scarcity is strictly becoming severe, yet in most water-scarce regions large quantities of water flow into the sea remain unutilized.

Technical and Socio-Political Issues
The constraints in the implementation of Kalabagh dam can be describes as technical and socio-political. Almost all technical issues and concerns raised by the upper and lower reparians have been taken care of in the shape of design adjustments, while the socio-political factors remain unsolved to date, and are being exploited by those having vested interests. There are also misplaced fears in the general public of flooding of Peshawar valley and Nowshera along with negative impact on the drainage in areas of Mardan, Pabbi and Swabi. Lower reparians feared desertification of Sindh, non-availability of surplus water to fill the Kalabagh reservoir, negative effects on cultivation of riverian areas, sea water intrusion, mangrove forests and diminishing of fish resources below Kotri. 

Benefits of Building Kalabagh Dam
Concerns regarding Kalabagh Dam have been fully analyzed by WAPDA an almost all of them are not sustainable considering the magnitude of benefits available to a large population of this cursed country. Benefits also include availability of water for entire Rabi, sowing and maturing of Kharif crops, 2600MW electricity and flood alleviation between downstream and Indus-Punjab confluence. The Water Appointment Accord of 1991 reflects consensus of all the four provinces over issues of new storage on Indus and other rivers. This should serve as the starting point for the construction of Kalabagh dam. The World Bank has funded projects like SCARP and NDP, which were to the tune of billions of dollars, but they failed to bring about desired economic benefits to Pakistan, because of wrong assumptions, corruption, malpractices and misplaced interests of the World Bank managers.

The severity of recent flooding in Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa is a direct result of excess water coming from the rivers. Kalabagh Dam would have prevented this catastrophe. Dams like Kalabagh would allow for better water management. Dams could direct the water flow to the world’s largest canal system and take it away from the flood pains. The loss of lives of around 500 people must be attributed to those who have opposed Kalabagh Dam and other such projects.  Nationalist political parties in Sind and KP are major culprits. Due to their opposition to the dams for selfish personal gains, they must be taken to the task by those who have suffered as a result.

There is no denying the fact that in addition to bringing adown population growth rate and making Kalabagh dam, other feasible reservoir sites must also be exploited to utilize the invaluable Indus water, for irrigation and power generation, which flows almost unused into the Arabian Sea during summers. This is our lifeline and the only option for our economic survival.

Therefore, introduction of effective demand management through adaptation of mechanism for forecasting water availability is needed for adjusting water demand to water availability and developing criteria for water allocation.       


ReeBz said... [Reply]

This is the BEST piece of writing from you!!I wish you had sent it for publishing into some English newspaper first.Cause here only few will read but if a newspaper publishes it, many will read.
It is a very thought provoking article and I agree with every line.though i didn't know the technicalities and hurdles involved in the construction of kala bagh dam as much as you have summed up in this post. Very informative and very summarized.

I want to share it on my blog as well with courtesy. May i?

floydian said... [Reply]

Heaps of thanks for reading and appreciating. I wrote this one about two weeks ago and sent the draft to the Dawn editor but received no reply. Hence, i decided to publish it here.

You duly have my permission to share it with your readers.

ReeBz said... [Reply]

Umm DAWN doesnot reply whether they are gonna publish it or not!I sent one article to dawn,they did not reply me either and i totally forgot about it,and guess what they published it after 5 months :S
I wrote a feature for the young world though, so may be they have different policy for the political and well-researched articles like this!

Thanks for the permission, i will be honored to share it on my blog!

mazhar said... [Reply]

I agree with your views. We must build this dam otherwise we'll have to depend on nature's mercy.

Liz.A said... [Reply]

well researched and well written article indeed though ever tried writing anything on a lighter a note:)

floydian said... [Reply]

Of course we need the dam but that can't happen without 'general will'.

Grateful for your feedback. I have been writing not so serious posts as well but definitely your point is taken.

Yea Dawn does make you play some waiting game but patience is a scarce commodity for many. And I still read Young World. Old habits die hard :p

Alpha Za said... [Reply]

Interesting piece. you obviously put alot of thought into it.

What do you do with all of the people that will get displaced.

how do you build that large a dam, when the government only allocates a 15bn rupees for a 12bn DOLLAR Dam project. Foriegn donors have offerred to finance it, but they don't want the govt. involved. Who can blame them.

You make valid points about the need, but the problem is the in the consequences and the bad provincial politics within it all.

Besides, our govt. isn't very good at getting things done.

floydian said... [Reply]

@Alpha Za
Glad you commented. Getting displaced and then relocated suitably due to dam construction is always preferable than driven from hearth and home, getting killed and/or losing kith and kin due to natural calamities like floods. The benefits of KB dam far outweigh the discomfort. The IMF and World Bank's one size fits all policy has played a vital role in creating economic crises, and thus, political-social-ethnic instability, which invariably has led to all out ethnic war, genocides and international interventions. You are right in saying that our government isn't good in implementing the projects. This is due to absence of checks and balances and lack of public fear. But really we must break the status quo and be ready to sacrifice our selfish interests for the country and our coming generations.

Dia said... [Reply]

Thanks for sharing this article as it helped me a lot for making notes on this topic. Truly great write up. Thumbs up!!

floydian said... [Reply]

Most welcome.

Alpha Za said... [Reply]

The thing is that you can't force the locals to move. It's plain wrong. And once you start compromising on principles, you start careening down the sort of slippery slope you don't want.

It's easy for us to say chin up and do it for the greater good. But the truth is that if we were in the locals position, we'd do the same thing.

I'm not sure how you're blaming this on the IMF, it seems a bit of a cop out that we ourselves lack the political will to do what is necessary and that we continuously fail to put aside our differences as Pakistanis instead focusing on our intense tribal and ethnic identities.

We are the reason that nothing has gotten done.

floydian said... [Reply]

Your views are appreciated and I really respect your concern for the locals. However, for KB, we need intervention by qualified change agents that can mould the rigid views and eliminate fear/hesitancy to change.

ReeBz said... [Reply]

LolZ exactly- so since the time i have started writing blog, i have become so much impatient that i don't like waiting 5 or 6 months for DAWN to publish my articles :S Though i know that one article which gets publish in DAWN worth more than the articles i publish myself on blog :D
Lol! i too love young worlD!! =D specially the centre page article/feature.May be cause my own occupied the same 2 centre pages of the mag :D

floydian said... [Reply]

Maybe I need to go through a proper channel instead of just sending an email to Dawn. Definitely publishing an article there is more effective than anywhere else.
Young World, I guess center page has more female readers than otherwise=p But Dawn(with all derivatives) is like an an addiction since ages without even knowing :)

Asim said... [Reply]

EXCELLENT article, floyd! Bravo. Very well organised and says it all.

floydian said... [Reply]

Thanks man.

ReeBz said... [Reply]

Lol:D i never knew that young world centre page has more female readres:P I mean this is dawns young worlds centre page not of JANG's Sunday mag's :D

BTW u need to answer syeda zehra at my blog, cause i really cant handle that girl :D

floydian said... [Reply]

You know the teenage boys aren't much interested in reading. They would rather settle for some visual treats. YW center pages usually contain passable cartoonist illustrations. Whereas, girls would decipher each and every word.

Now let me see what is going on your blog

ReeBz said... [Reply]

Soore comments at my blog that might interest you! one from an indian!