Sunday, August 14, 2016

Create Ten Lakes on Indus River

July 25, 2016

By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan has three large dams and 85 small dams. Besides there are 20 barrages that control the water of the rivers and flooding. The water to the agricultural lands is carried through 57 canals. The biggest barrages Guddu, Kotri and Sukkar are in Sindh. Among the dams Mangla and Tarbela are the largest dams in Pakistan that also produce hydroelectric power. There are 42 natural and 9 artificial lakes in Pakistan.

In 1850 the British East India Company created a modern irrigation system by building several barrages and canals mostly in Punjab and Sindh provinces. the famous Barrage Sukkar was built in Sindh in 1932.

According to the 1960 Water Control Treaty between India and Pakistan, three rivers namely Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were exclusively allocated to Pakistan. India got Sutlej, Bias and Ravi.

Despite having one of the best irrigation and water control systems a huge portion of water flows down in the ocean. Moreover, during the rainy or monsoon season the crops are destroyed and the villages are inundated. The cattle and livestock perish. 
The overflowing water causes death toll of a large number of inhabitants living in rural areas. In 2010 floods 1.4 million acres of crops were destroyed. In 2011 this loss was 1.7 million acres of agricultural land and crops.

Besides, every year during the rainy and monsoon seasons there happens a colossal displacement of the people, loss of cattle, houses and human beings. Pakistan’s major crops are sugarcane, wheat and cotton. The loss of these crops because of flooding and inundation is inestimable.

Punjab and Sindh are the food baskets of Pakistan. These food baskets are sustained and watered by the mighty Indus river that starts from the Tibet Plateau and after traveling a distance of 3180 kilometers (1980 miles) falls at two places: one in the Arabian Sea and the other at the Ran of Kutch. In plains its tributaries are rivers Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi, Jhelum, Kabul, Kurram, and Gomel. The rain water also flows into this world’s 21st largest river. It is a key water resource and backbone of the agriculture in Pakistan.

However, despite well-managed and vast system of barrages and dams, the bulk of water during the rainy periods flows in the ocean mainly through the Indus river as the barrages and dams have to be opened due to flooding and overflowing of rivers. Thus this precious additional water that accumulates because of the monsoon or heavy rains is wasted away besides causing damage to the crops, fatalities of the people and loss of agricultural output.

The interlinked canals too get choked and cannot carry surplus water to the agricultural lands. The water spreads all over the land and finally joins the flooded Indus or other rivers. The flooded tributaries carry their water into Indus river that swells beyond its banks.  

The best solution of such natural recurring natural disaster and wastage of precious water is if several lakes are created over the mighty Indus between Naushehra city and the Persian Gulf. Since the distance of Indus from Naushehra to Karachi is around 1000 miles, at least ten vast lakes can be built after every 100 miles’ distance. The size of the lakes can be determined by the experts.

We have such a large lake in Sindh province. It is called Manchar Lake. Lake Manchar is the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan and one of the largest in Asia. Since 1930 when this lake was created by the British government, it has remained the source of income and living for thousands of families mostly engaged in fishing. Currently it is faced with environmental degradation problem.

The high and low season of rains is a double- edged sword. When the rains are plentiful the flooding and overflowing is caused that disrupts life, causes displacement of the population and destruction of the crops. But on the contrary when there is a drought, the flow of the water in Indus and other tributary rivers diminishes as to not be adequately available for agriculture.

As such the creation of lakes like the Manchar lake can be useful in both ways. When the rivers are flooded in monsoon season these lakes can become reservoir for the excess water that can be stored for the subsequent use. When in rivers the water level comes down in drought conditions, these lakes can continue supplying water to the seasonal crops. Thus the level of agricultural output can remain stable throughout the year.

The lakes thus created can also be a source of living for the local population by way of fishing and rowing for the tourists. These can also facilitate the movement of the local residents and merchandise between the banks. These lakes can be another form of the barrages for accumulation of water although these would only store water but would not have the gates to be shut or closed depending upon the quantity of water.   

These lakes would be instrumental in enhancing and stabilizing the principle crops for domestic use and for exports. One can imagine the prosperity and enhancement of foreign exchange for Pakistan. The poverty in our rural areas can be rooted out or at least minimized by creating these lakes.

It is up to the experts and engineers of WAPDA as well as the government to chart out a plan of action and envisage the number of lakes to be created and their locations. Digging of lakes would not be a big problem as the local population can be engaged to work on these projects.
Thus they would benefit financially. In our villages and countryside there are countless landless and jobless tillers and peasants who can run their households by working on the creation of these lakes which might take a few years.


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