Kalabagh dam has become absolutely necessary for Pakistan to survive.
Pakistan could become a water scarce country as early as 2025. There are not enough water storage facilities for an ever-growing population of Pakistan. Experts from public and private sectors while participating in a seminar in connection with celebration of “World Environmental Health Day 2017” at a hotel in Lahore while dilating on various aspects of the theme, warned that Pakistan could approach “absolute scarcity” levels of water and face a drought as early as 2025, just another seven years from now.
- Water availability is gradually decreasing in the country, Pakistan can store only 10 per cent of the annual flows which is sufficient for just ten days use only, the per capita water availability has gone down to 908 cubic meter in 2017 from as much as 5260 cubic meter way back in 1951, rapid increase in population being the major contributing factor behind the phenomenon, about 29 million acres feet of water (MAF) on average is escaping below Kotri Barrage into the Arabian Sea every year.
- The country needs to construct more dams to enhance water storage capacity to adequately cope with the water requirements and that as many as 20 million acres of additional land can be brought under irrigated agriculture if water is made available by constructing more dams.
- Construction of world’s largest earth-filled Tarbela dam was given preference over Kalabagh dam by the decision-makers . Tarbela dam construction was started in 1968 and it was completed in 1976 and since then no other major storage facility has been developed so far. It is only our greatest misfortune that the country has built only two water storage, Mangla dam and Tarbela dam, in 70 years of its existence.
- Water storage capacity of Tarbela dam over the years due to massive sedimentation and other factors has been alarmingly reduced by as much as 36 per cent from 9.6 million acres feet to 6.6 million acres feet. According to the experts, desilting of Tarbela dam will cost more than the construction of a new dam.
- It is only our bad luck and misfortune that Pakistan receives as much as 145 million acres feet of water annually and out of this huge quantity has developed storage facility only for 14 million acres of feet, just ten per cent as also mentioned above.
- Kalabagh dam can be constructed in just six to eight years and it can generate 2400 to 3600 megawatt of electricity which will be as cheaper as less than Rs three per unit and can store more than 7 million acres feet of water for as long as three years and all the four federating units will be getting substantial additional water for irrigation purposes boosting agricultural production.
When considering pros and cons of the said damn, the pros clearly outweigh the cons by a mile.
- An assessment [in 2013] put the saving which the country would have made since 2010, at as huge an amount as $43 billion had Kalabagh been in operation. Indisputably then, the dam would have spared the fate that has befallen our economy. There would, doubtless, have been all-encompassing attendant benefits: regular power supply, normal industrial, agricultural and domestic activity, employment opportunities, greater food production, a measurable increase in the availability of water and a marked degree of flood control; and, the most important of all, reduced shortages would have had a beneficial impact on inflation.
- Apart from the Kalabagh’s power generating units adding 3,600MW to the national grid, they would, ‘through conjunction’ enable the Tarbela dam to produce an additional 336 million kwh of electricity. In this way alone, the economy would get a boost of, on an average, Rs 46 billion annually. Besides, as the production of hydel power is far cheaper than the thermal, Kalabagh would go a long way towards bringing down the tariff, giving relief to the public and making our goods more competitive in the international market. The dam would store 6.1 million acre feet of water whose supply could be regulated for various uses downstream according to requirement. The Minister’s [Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar] reply said, “Some floods will be absorbed by the reservoir and average flood control benefits are estimated at Rs 1.50 billion.”
- It was a comprehensive statement that also spelled out the exact area to be submerged and the population to be displaced by the construction of the dam and, as it is already well known, Punjab would be the worst hit. But, then, the entire nation stands to benefit, including, of course, Punjab. It is, therefore, incomprehensible that while Punjab is eager for the dam to be built and would be ready to absorb the loss of land and relocate the population to be displaced, smaller provinces, mainly KPK and Sindh, which would also make substantial direct as well as indirect gains, keep opposing the project.
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