Kalabagh: the question of survival

The construction of Kalabagh dam is being attributed to the life and death of Pakistan


By Noman Khan Hakro
Water plays an important role for all living things such as; human beings, animals, birds, plants. All the civilizations of the world lived and flourished beside the rivers like; Indus, Nile, Euphrates etc. Water has always been the centre of attention for all the countries. It is being predicted that water will be the reason behind world war 3. A great number of countries including Pakistan and India have fought wars over water. Water disputes can push the countries toward verge of doom. The case of Kalabagh dam is somewhat different because it is an interprovincial issue in Pakistan.
There is a heated debate on Kalabagh dam across Pakistan these days. The construction of this dam is being attributed to the life and death of Pakistan. Though, three provinces Sindh, KP and Balochistan denounce the construction of this dam vehemently. Contrary to it, Punjab is bent upon building it at any cost. Constitutionally, it is unjustifiable to build a dam for three out of four provinces oppose its construction. Feudal lords of Punjab and Seraiki Belt have their vested interests in building this dam.
Apart from political differences, there are some technical issues that demand burial of this chapter forever. One, larger dames are comparatively harmful. Two, it is being constructed undemocratically. Three, the authority of distribution of water goes to federation and smaller provinces will be blackmailed every now and then. Four, lands, water and irrigation will go away from poor people. Five, building larger dams will result into mass migration hence many locals will be homeless and unemployed. Seven, it will give birth to floods.
Moreover, Kalabagh dam will be bone of contention among provinces even after its construction. In our Indus River System, there is no waste water and Pakistan is already facing the huge shortage of water. We are not able to fill the Mangla and Tarbela dams properly and their capacity of reservation has been decreased owing to the increasing level of caves. Undoubtedly, vast tracts of land will be submerged. Besides Punjab, lands of Mardan, Sawabi, Charsida, Noushahra, Dhoda and Kharmatoo will be inundated.
On October 12, 1996, rejecting the construction of Kalabagh dam, IRSA (Indus River System Authority) told that life of dam would be 22 to 30 years and the cost would be higher than the power generation. Due to this dam, Noushahra will go 24 feet down and experience frequent floods. Peshawar-Pindi and Pindi-Kohat gas line will be sunk. Many bridges and roads situated on rivers like; Attock Talakang road, Kohat and Pindi on Swan river, and Peshawar on Indus river will be underwater.
Besides, it is apparent that water is not found in the Kotri down stream despite the fact that dam has not been built yet. Delta and low lying areas of Sindh face the scarcity of water. Down stream would be dried up completely if Kalabagh is built. Consequently, Sindh will bear the economic loss as well as sea intrusion. According to experts, there are possibilities of earthquakes where dam is being built. Construction of Kalabagh dam will affect environment, ecosystem, biodiversity and population severely.
Last but not least, the cost of Kalabagh dam is $10 billion dollars which a poor country like Pakistan cannot afford. Pakistan can generate more energy from solar at low cost. Authorities should abstain from misadventures at the cost of 100 million people of three provinces. It is high time to openly debate on this issue in both houses of parliament. Kalabagh dam is a dead horse therefore it should not be flogged.

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