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Pakistan needs hundreds of Dadhocha dams

Pakistan is currently amongst the most water-stressed nations of the world. In this context, the construction of small storage dams – like the Dadhocha dam being built by FWO in Rawalpindi - can play a key role in improving water supplies to towns and agriculture. It is estimated that the country offers sites for around 750 small dams.

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Dadhocha is a small village near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. For hundreds of years, it has been famous for its Gakhars (Kayanis) and its Rajput (Janjua) clans that have provided fighting men to armies from the days of the Mughal empire – or perhaps even before.

But this semi-mountainous part of the Pothohar Plateau, located near Rawat, a few kilometers from the Islamabad expressway, will soon be remembered for a beautiful small dam constructed by Frontier Works Organization (FWO).

Dadhocha dam, at the backyard of DHA-5 and Rawat Industrial Estate, once complete, is going to provide around 35 million gallons of water (MGD) every day to the citizens of Rawalpindi.

With its reservoir capacity of around 60,000-acrefeet and its potential catchment area of more than 100 km, it will replenish aquafers and raise the falling water table of the area. Small dams like Dadhocha are what Pakistan needs – and in hundreds all over the country.

Read More: PTI Govt used Dam funds in routine expenditure but not for dams?

Though historically a water-rich region with mighty rivers and streams flowing from north to south, Pakistan is now amongst the most water- stressed nations of the world. There are many reasons, including a seven-fold population increase since 1947, river water distribution with India, and lack of effective water planning.

Still, huge water resources available to Pakistan remain under-developed. It is estimated that half of the country’s irrigation water is wasted due to a poorly managed irrigation system
and inadequate water infrastructure.

Dadhocha dam

In this context, the construction of small storage dams – like Dadhocha can play a key role in improving water supplies to towns and for agriculture. Unfortunately, developing small dams had never been the priority of successive governments.

Since 1996, there had been no significant addition to small dams through a number of schemes were planned. Pakistani planners’ focus has always been on developing large and mega water projects that are too costly and require long lead-time, bear negative impacts on large-scale population dislocation, other social and environmental concerns, and have political dimensions.

These projects, costing multi-million dollars and requiring at least 10 to 12 years for completion, often run into snags and are delayed. The cost of two options may be visualized from the fact that 12 small dams in the Potohar region (stretched between
Dina and Rawalpindi) were completed in 1996 at the cost of $35.4 million, whereas the Diamer-Basha dam was estimated to cost $8.5 billion in 2008– and this continues to increase as it’s still not complete in the year 2021.

Read More: Pakistan’s Kalabagh Dam and a series of unfortunate events

Pakistan has constructed all small dams so far. According to reliable estimates, it has the potential to build another 750 small dams to meet the water requirements of a growing local and regional population.

The trend in favor of small dams is being pursued in developing countries. Sri Lanka has constructed some 12,000 small dams, and Nepal more than 2,000. In India, which is considered a leading dam builder, 19,134 small dams have been developed, and 52 small dams can be constructed on Chenab and other rivers originating from Kashmir.

Why Rawalpindi desperately needs Dadhocha Dam?

Local community-based small dams, like Dadhocha being built by FWO in Rawalpindi, provide a simple, cheaper, reliable, and manageable solution to water storage issues. Typical examples are cited of four small dams: Rawal, Simli, Misriot, and Tanaza, which effectively meet the water requirements of Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and surrounding areas.

Rawal currently provides around 22-23 million gallons of water to Islamabad; other dams are even smaller than that. The current water demand of Rawalpindi city is approximately 65 MGD, and according to studies by Punjab Irrigation Dept (PID), that is set to rise to around 90 MGD by 2030.

Read More: Islamabad to get water from Rawal dam after 30 years

Even today, Rawalpindi, with water availability of about 51 MGD, faces a shortage of 14 MGD. Without a new dam like Dadhocha, this shortage can become around 40 MGD in 2030, causing severe challenges for the area’s quality of human life, industry, and political peace.

There are reports that in new housing schemes such as Gulberg Green in Islamabad – residents have had to bore up to 600 feet and still could not get water on their properties. It is not an exceptional case.

In Rawalpindi this summer, residents faced acute water shortages; officials from the water and sanitation agency confirmed the city was only getting 46 million gallons per day against its demand of 65 million gallons per day, and access to underground water fell below 650 feet.

Dadhocha dam

The agency set up 460 tubewells for immediate use for the 1.6 million residents of the city. Unfortunately, tubewells, in the long run, are even worse in depleting underground water reserves. Dadhocha dam was initially proposed in 2001, but ironically its construction could only kick start in Jan 2021.

Read More: Work on Diamer-Bhasha Dam progressing despite pandemic

Delays were caused by many factors, including the tedious task of land acquisition near major urban centers like Rawalpindi and Islamabad, where residential and even agricultural land has become very expensive.

Government of Punjab, Notification under Sec. 4 of Land Acquisition Act 1894 was first issued in 2010, but an acquisition could not be completed due to compensation disputes by the landowners.

FWO that aggressively started work in Jan 2021 had given an expected completion date of October 2022. But it is currently facing delays due to lingering issues of compensation to local village landowners by the Punjab Govt.

Work that was suspended for few weeks was again resumed in the first week of July 2021; however, an atmosphere of uncertainty exists. The estimated construction cost of the dam – excluding land compensation – was around Rs. 2,580 million (Rs. 2.56 billion), but this can be raised due to delays.

But one hopes that given the enormous public importance of this project, compensation issues will be resolved soon, and work will move ahead. As observed at the outset, Pakistan needs hundreds of Dadhocha dams.

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