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Kalabagh Dam: A necesaity rather than a luxury

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News Analysis |

Recently, Pakistan was overwhelmed with the General Elections 2018 and the resulting furor over the alleged rigging. Prior to these elections, manifestos topped manifestos in making promises of a country with better economic, social, political and legal conditions from here forth.

Prior to the elections, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), i.e. the party in the majority as per results, gave statements regarding the ongoing water crisis in Pakistan, “We will expedite construction of Diamer-Basha dam and speed up feasibility studies of other dams. We will build small dams across Pakistan to conserve water and fulfill local demand.”

The Inevitable Crisis & Expert Opinion

Experts believe that many things led to the exacerbating water crisis in Pakistan including, rapid urbanization, corruption, management, role of water mafia in Karachi and other major cities, India’sconstructionn of dams over River Indus and Jhelum and most importantly reservations in the construction of dams in Pakistan.

Inter-Provincial Differences

Following the results of G.E 2018, the parties forming the provincial governments are one of the key players. The former provincial governments clearly indicated their individual stances regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam. Where Punjab was all ears for this project, Sindh expressed clear reservations by stating that this would result in cutting down the water supply for it..

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) commented on this issue, “that water scarcity in Sindh and other parts of the country is due to our inability to build Kalabagh Dam.” LCCI president, Malik Tahir Javaid said that experts feared that water crisis would hit the agriculture sector of Punjab and Sindh following the falling water storage capacity in Tarbela and Mangla dams.

Imran Khan in his premiership will have to face the huge challenge of building Kalabagh Dam (KB). However, will Sindh government allow the commencement of such an act? Will they be able to digest seeing Imran Khan build KB dam?

 

Moreover, “It would be better if anti-Kalabagh elements play a role for early construction of this mega project instead of fueling the provincial conflict otherwise our future generations would suffer”, he added. Furthermore, water supply to Sindh had enhanced from 36.6 million acre-feet per annum to 40.30 million acre-feet when the dams of Mangla and Tarbela were made. Thus, the construction of Kalabagh dam was predicted to supply over 4 million acre-feet additional water to Sindh.

This project will produce power at an average cost of Rs.2/kwh and annually displace costly power worth approximately Rs.300 billion with consequential savings of costly oil imports, he reported. Addressing the concerns of Sindh and other provinces he also stated, that there were no such threats posing to Nowshehra, as it is 150 feet above the water level. This dam would irrigate 800,000 acres of land that is located 100-150 feet above the Indus river level in the province and it could only be brought under cultivation if the river level is raised. And that this dam would act as a gateway to reduce the poverty in Sindh, as an added benefit.

Read more: Can judicial activism pave way for construction of Kalabagh dam?

He said the other alternative ‘is to pump the water which is very costly’. On 27th June 2018, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Saqib Nisar, while heading a three-member bench hearing a plea in connection with construction of Kalabagh Dam remarked that, “the Supreme Court will be ahead of everyone in the construction of dams as they are necessary for survival of the country.” CJP asked former chairman WAPDA, Engineer Shamsul Mulk to guide on this matter. Explaining the benefits, Shamsul Mulk stated that China would be generating around 30,000 megawatts of electricity from dams. “Even India has more than 4,000 dams,” he said. “We lose billions due to the non-construction of dams.”

Moreover, the engineer suggested that Kalabagh Dam’s control should be given to Sindh due to their reservations. Stressing upon the importance of the construction of the dams, CJP ensured that this construction would lead to the positive outcome for all provinces.

The former provincial governments clearly indicated their individual stances regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam. Where Punjab was all ears for this project, Sindh expressed clear reservations by stating that this would result in cutting down the water supply for it..

Adding to the Existing Water Crisis

This geographical handicap resulting from the partition of Subcontinent has left Pakistan unnecessarily dependent on India, which keeps on hurling threats to Pakistan of stopping or diverting rivers’ every now and then. Kishanganga flows through the regions of Neelum in Azad Kashmir and Astore before entering the India-held region of Gurez. The dam will give India control over a river that flows originally from Pakistan into India-held Kashmir and then re-enters Pakistan.

The latest events of the establishment of Kishanganga Dam, Baglihar dams and Rattle dam on River Jhelum and Chenab are posing threats to Pakistani water supply which is predominantly scarce.  Tensions have risen following the arbitration of World Bank in June 2018, forcing Pakistan to agree to India’s terms of taking on board a neutral expert in the investigations rather than heading to the International Court of arbitration.

Read more: Pakistan’s Water Crisis makes Kalabagh an “inevitable” reality, assures CJP

India to Stop Water Supply of Pakistan

In March 2018, Union Water Resource Minister of India, Nitin Gadkarni was given a green signal by PM Narendra Modi, as he officially announced their plans of stopping the water supply of Pakistan by redirecting waters of rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej to its northern Indian states, including Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan for irrigation.

Transpiring that matters have gone beyond the stage of mere political sloganeering from India, Pakistan needs to come up with its own ways of solving the exacerbating water crisis. Pakistan approached the World Bank in order to highlight that indeed violations had taken place in regard to the Indus Water Treaty as Pakistan struck a World Bank-sponsored mandatory binding on India under the Indus Waters Treaty in September 1960 to ensure free flow of water towards it as a lower riparian.

The engineer suggested that Kalabagh Dam’s control should be given to Sindh due to their reservations. Stressing upon the importance of the construction of the dams, CJP ensured that this construction would lead to the positive outcome for all provinces.

According to the treaty, India was given complete autonomy over the use of water resources of eastern rivers – Sutlej, Beas and Ravi – while Pakistan was authorized to make full utilization of waters from the western rivers – Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. Notably, the clause of treaty pertaining to full autonomy over use of water from designated rivers does not allow diversion or redirecting the courses of the rivers by any state.

Read more: “Water shortage is now the top priority of the court,” says…

World Bank Reservations Incited by India 

What World Bank has failed to improve upon is its traditional stance over Indian projects opposite to reservations of Pakistan which the bank always considers should have no effect on Pakistan. Contrarily, such projects do affect Pakistan being a lower riparian. The subject at hand is that no matter whatever project Pakistan pursues in order to abate its water crisis, India ends up overturning it or acting out. Analysts opine that India looks at the World Bank as a medium for cutting down the financial strings of Pakistan.

Similar reservartions were made by India on account of the Diamer- Bhasha Dam, which according to India is located on the territory of disputed land allegedly held in Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan. Once again, they use the Kashmir issue as a shield for intervening in the decisions of Pakistan. Then what choice does this leave for Pakistan?

Need for an Epiphany

The need of this hour is to understand that this is in fact not a provincial issue but a national problem. People of Pakistan couldn’t care less about as to who ends up creating dams or coming up with strategies to resolve its ongoing water crisis which is predicted to worsen in the upcoming years.

The United Nations has categorized Pakistan among one of the unfortunate countries which stand in line to suffer the effects of water shortage which might result in destabilizing and jeopardizing its existence in the upcoming decades. The provincial governments must collaborate mutually, across the aisle to get rid of this issue as soon as possible, that is as of ‘right now!’.

Imran Khan in his premiership will have to face the huge challenge of building Kalabagh Dam (KB). However, will Sindh government allow the commencement of such an act? Will they be able to digest seeing Imran Khan build KB dam?

Read more: Chief Justice says stakeholders of Kala Bagh Dam will stay unaffected…

This is up to him now, as to how he chooses to settle the provincial governmental matters via talks and make every stakeholder realize that it is in the best interest of the entire country in the construction of this dam. The PM-elect could look at the possibility of handing over the duty of this project to Sindh, so that their reservations may be settled accordingly.

If Pakistan is able to undergo the construction of this dam, it will in deed show the necessary acts of being called ‘Naya Pakistan’, in which this dam will not be the work of purely Imran Khan, but in fact all provincial-governmental bodies working together as one.

Will Imran Khan bring PML-N and PPP to the table?

Will they allow such an act to be implemented?

Will he share the credit and glory that will come with the construction of Kalabagh Dam, if it pragmatically happens?

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