Saturday, April 3, 2010

Kalabagh Dam-Damn anti-Dam Lobbies

March 28, 2010

Kalabagh Dam-Damn anti-Dam Lobbies
By Saeed Qureshi

The simple logic is that those who do not want dams like Kalabagh to be built, they are enemies of the country or at least don’t want Pakistan to have vibrant economy and social peace. The forces and lobbies that opposed Pakistan and those that are stuck up in their narrow grooves of provincialism would not like Pakistan to become an economically viable country. The weak economy foments societal discontent and poltical instability. That is the spectacle that patriotic Pakistanis have been witnessing since the inception of Pakistan.
The Kalabagh Dam has been made so much controversial that no one wants even to broach the subject of this dam that is so vital for irrigation and energy in Pakistan. The Kalabagh Dam seems to have been abandoned for fear of uproarious hullabaloo from the regional forces that in fact were never in favor of a stable and prosperous Pakistan. Hence the power shortage mayhem and the resultant chaos in the society due to tormenting blackouts and long power outrages.
The dam or similar projects that are so vital and imperative for a developing country like Pakistan have fallen prey to the petty and narrow politicking in that the parochial or regional sentiments is whipped with an implied message of breakup of Pakistan. ANP has played the NWFP card so deftly and stunningly that despite expenditure of several billion rupees since the conception of this project, the actual construction has remained elusive. The respective governments due to weak political standing or for reasons of political repercussions could not press for the launching of this most sought-after project that if built by now, would have changed the economic complexion of Pakistan with less power breakdowns and more industrial and agricultural boom.
If the PPP government has brokered an agreement for the change of the title of the NWFP province it should have also sought the consent of the ANP to concede to the unpardonably stalled construction of Kalabagh Dam. There are Pashtun experts who vociferously advocate the need of Kalabagh Dam arguing that all arguments and apprehensions to the contrary were politically motivated by the forces that inherently don’t want Pakistan to be economically robust and viable. The off- repeated propaganda that it would benefit Punjab more and that the vast land of Nowshera would submerge in the dam area are cock and bull stories and mere sham tactics to create paranoid against the Kalabagh Dam. After all Tarbela too at the outset was subjected to such unfounded and concocted gossips but now it is evident that it did not harm even a blade of grass. What would have been the energy situation if there had been no Tarbela dam: one simply shudders to imagine.
Former president Pervez Musharraf had been shouting at the top of his voice and professing to build dams and make Pakistan self sufficient in electricity. But once he has gone either the projects started by him have been halted or else he was simply hoodwinking or bullshitting the people of Pakistan. He was in a much stronger position to go ahead with the construction of Kalabagh Dam, that if built would be like a life line for the economy and animated social life in Pakistan. This is a sad saga of missed opportunities and the vital nation building projects were sacrificed at the altar of political bargaining and for the base motives of holding on to power with the help of the regional forces.
Being a lower riparian Pakistan is in a grossly disadvantaged position vis a vis India. As all the rivers emanate from Kashmir and northern glaciers that are mostly under the occupation of India, Pakistan is entirely at the mercy of India for water share. The Indus Basin Treaty (1960) was a trap that deprived Pakistan of the three rivers, Sutlej, Ravi and Bias. Pakistan was given exclusive use of water from three rivers namely Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. But if that was the end of the issue of sharing water then it could have still brought a good portion of water to Pakistan.
But Indus Basin Treaty is being wantonly violated by India. It is building 22 dams on the rivers apportioned to Pakistan under the IBT. This is so because all these rivers pass through the Indian territory before entering Pakistan. India is therefore, controlling on the jugular water sources. With the completion of those dams the water that would flow into Pakistan would be reduced to minimum and only that water would deposit in the rivers that comes from rain or the snow mountain peaks situated on the Pakistani side. Until all the Indian dams or the presently under construction would be filled with water which might take years, Pakistan would turn into arid land. Just think about the horrendous consequences.
While Pakistan can continue pressing for its due share of water under the Indus Basin Treaty, it should, as well, look for other sources for water. The shortfall of water and electricity is going to be hugely alarming in Pakistan if alternate sources are not found. The thermal, the nuclear, the solar, the wind and the coal fueled power plants are absolutely indispensible if Pakistan does not want to join the impoverished and water scarce countries of Africa. In this highly abysmal water and power situation, the regional political elements and those sitting at the center must come up with a definitive decision of not only starting the construction of Kalabagh Dam but a host of other small or big dams also, so that the acute shortage of water and power that would overtake Pakistan in the coming years can be preempted and arrested before it starts spelling disaster for the country.

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