This article deals with some genuine concerns raised by the smaller provinces regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam. It is also an attempt to discuss the possible solutions which would help addressing these concerns. Serious efforts are required to address these concerns hindering the construction of Kalabagh Dam.
Kalabagh Dam, first proposed in 1948 along with Kanafuli Dam in East Pakistan, has the potential of generating 3600 MWs. It would have 12 turbines generating 300 MWs each. Moreover, it is a multi-purpose dam which would be used for generating electricity and providing water for crops in shortage of water season which is Winter but Pakistan also suffers from it in the start of Summer. The dam would store up to 6.1 million acre feet of water.
The design of the dam was completed in 1960s but due to unstable political situation in the country, the project did not get attention unttil Zia’s regime. Although serious efforts were made during Zia’s regime by releasing funds for its construction but political situation as well as soviet invasion in afghanistan didn’t let Zia realise his dream. Afterwards till 1999 around 1.2 billion rupees had been released for the dam but all was in vain as no development took place. We did not exempt this situation that Nawaz Sharif announced this project in July of 1998 just after the atomic bomb testing at Chagai but NAP (National Awami Party) of NWFP strongly resisted the project in the parliament. Later, as Musharraf made a sincere effort towards building the dam in 2004, there was a large resistance coming from all three small provinces. From that time, Kalabagh Dam project is no more but a dream.
Kalabagh Dam is of great utility for Punjab as it creates greater opportunity for people of the province, especially in the Central Punjab region, which already has a well built canal system. As the dam in favour of people and government of Punjab so there is no issue with government of Punjab. It creates vast opportunity to increase yield of crops of both Rabi and Kharif. It also increases efficiency of Punjab’s fertile land from 20-30 MPA to 40-45 MPA especially in the Potohar region. It also increases the yield of cotton and its products which make 57 percent of the revenue of exports of Pakistan. It also minimises the dependendence of Punjab’s textile industry on India for getting fibre products as raw material.
The biggest resistance to the project has come from Sindh. The horrible decrease in efficiency of Sindh’s land especially in the Hyderabad division, after building Mangla and Tarbela Dam didn’t allow Sindh government to afford construction of another dam on Indus. According to the International law that deals with upper and lower riparian, the area at the bottom of the river site has the right to unaffected flow of the resrervoir’s water and Sindh, in this case, deserves the right to control the flow of river Indus.
The first concern which emerges from Sindh, is that the most of the stored water in Kalabagh dam would benefit Punjab and KPK while currently it is being used for Sindh’s agricultural land. The construction of Kalabagh Dam would be hazardous for Sindh’s economy, fertility of land and agricultural production. One possible solution to address the problem can be construction of channel of canals in Sindh which originates from the river and covers the whole province and there is also a channel of sub-canal system built for the people of Sindh, which has already been built for the people of Punjab under Indus Water Treaty. The appropriate angle for construction of such channel lies between 15° and 25°, to minimize the cost. The government can also consider building proper barrage system and stopping spills similar to Chashma, Minawali. A controlled canal should be developed from Attock to Bhakkar having end at just below of 50 meters from the site of dam so there remains no ambiguity for the people of Sindh as it creates full flow of regular water and stores just extra water and that Sindh’s share of water is not taken away by Punjab. And it also causes to increase fertile land by some 3.4 million acres in Sindh as well as Attock-Bhakkar section which is totally progression of people of Pakistan.
There is another issue arosed by people of Sindh that due to construction of Tarbela, Mangla Dams, Sukkur and Kotri barrage do not receive as much water as they did in the past. The Sukkur-Hyderabad division of Indus is totally kept dry which creates flood in whole Sindh as there is only mud remaining in the river site. So construction of Kalabagh Dam more slowen the flow the water which would create drying up of the whole reiver Indus in sindh province. This is also proportional to removing of last reservioir of water in Sindh. There is no doubt that when the Indus reaches Attock, it slows and when it crosses Mithankot, it further slows. The expensive solution for this is to build boundary walls at both the sides of river where applicable, where Indus gets wider and more plane and put mechanical spills at various locations. This will speed up the flow of the river and replace all area of sand from water which is used for growing crops and increasing fertility of land of Sindh.
The other problem is that already built dam creates much problems for aquatic life and destroys beauty of Kinjher and Haleji lakes and causes deforestation at the seashores of Sindh, which causes loss of Sindh’s land to sea water. Moreover, Punjab’s control of Sindh’s water can be an instrument to control Sindh economically, socially and culturally. This will also lead to decrease in the role of Sindh in progress and prosperity. This solution demands huge money, time, planning and sacrifice but after all, it’s a thousand years project for the people of this region.
As for the concerns of KPK, the first issue arising is that the reservoirs of Dams are located in KPK but turbines are located in Punjab so central royalty will be completely taken away by Punjab. The problem has been solved as Punjab has already surrendered its share to royalty.
The second issue arising was that due to construction of Dam, Nowshera and Mardan would be drowned. The concern is severe as some areas of Mardan and Nowshera are lesser in height above sea level from Kalabagh site. Some areas of these cities have a height between 900 to 920 feet. The Kalabagh Dam reservoir would have a height of 925 feet. There was an attempt to solve the problem by decreasing the height of Kalabagh Dam reservoir to 915 ft above the sea level but the proposed solution does not satisfy many in the province as many area would still be on the risk of flooding. The problem can be soved by constructing pyramid wall around reservoir up to a safe level but the solution is very expensive and Pakistan cannot affortd to go with it. Furthermore, digging proper canals, wells and channels in KPK decrease the risk of flooding.
From Balochistan, there is no prominent concern on Kalabagh Dam as it has plateau-like structure, except the expenditure on a project which has no benefit for the people of Balochistan. The concern is rarely adopted and has more to do with political benefits. The only solution is increasing the share of electricity in the NFC award for Balochistan.
The government should move forward with regards to building Kalabagh dam by generating consensus of all provinces which can only be done by addressing their concerns. Through a proper sitting of committee from all provinces which consists of technical experts, engineers ,political leaders and bureaucrats. kalabagh dam should be built as soon as possible because life of Tarbela and Mangla dams will be over soon and Pakistan will be deprived of water resources which would ultimately lead to starvation, economic backwardness and poverty. Serious efforts are required to be made for kalabagh dam by adopting national behaviour.
About The Author
Saad Binubaid studies Mathematics at Quaid-i-Azam University. He is interested in National Security as well as Agricultural and Industrial development. He is a keen observer of International Relations and Strategic Affairs.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.