Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Kalabagh Dam: reconsidering the case


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

THE Lahore High Court order to construct the Kalabagh Dam is to be welcomed, though it should be decided by technical experts. It is a serious matter for Pakistan’s existence and the government should keep politicians away from this issue.

Although a number of apprehensions have been expressed both by upper (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and lower (Sindh) riparian provinces, most of these are based either on disinformation or there have been reservations in the mind of some quarters without any apparent reason.

Pakistan may face a serious water crisis by the year 2025 due to change in climate. According to the UN World Water Development Report, the total actual renewable water resources in Pakistan decreased from 2,961 cubic metres per capita in 2000 to 1,420 cubic metres in 2005.

A more recent study indicates an available supply of water of little more than 1,000 cubic metres per person, which puts Pakistan in the category of a high-stress country.

Using data from the federal government’s planning and development division, the overall water availability has decreased from 1,299 cubic metres per capita in 1996-97 to 1,101 cubic metres in 2004-2005.

In view of growing population, urbanisation and increased industrialisation, the situation is likely to get worse. If the current trends continue, it could go as lows as 550 cubic metres by 2025.

According to Woodrow Wilson Center’s South Asia scholar Anatol Lieven, one of the greatest threats to the future of Pakistan’s stability is water security. Water availability per capita has fallen to less than a third of what it was in the 1950s.

The Kalabagh Dam would provide 6.5 million acre feet of water to cultivate seven million acres of currently barren land.

With its installed capacity of 2,400 MW (ultimate 3,600 MW), it would add to the system a very large chunk of cheap hydropower.

The energy generated would be equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil a year. The dam would reduce the frequency and severity of flooding along the Indus.

The overall direct benefits of the dam would be around Rs25 billion per annum, thus the investment cost of project would be repaid within 10 years.

There is a need to create an awareness among the people across the country that the Kalabagh dam is vital for the country.


Some proposals

THE Provincial Assemblies of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh have passed resolutions opposing the construction of the Kalabagh Dam. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh are not against the dam per se, but they have serious apprehensions about its present design.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa fears that a high-level dam, with pond level at elevation of 915, would inundate the Nowshera valley while Sindh is against creating storage at Kalabagh due to its fear that Punjab would make unauthorised withdrawals of water and a history of mistrust between them.

The design of the dam is not sacrosanct. It can be and should be modified to an agreeable solution.

A storage reservoir is already being built at Bhasha and its stored water will be shared by the provinces in accordance with the Water Accord.

The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) is in place to oversee the distribution of water. Punjab should, therefore, not insist on a high-level dam to create storage at Kalabagh.

A low-level spillover dam should be built at Kalabagh only to generate electricity and diversion of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa share of water, as this is the only place from where water can be conveyed by gravity flow to irrigate vast tracts of barren lands of D.I. Khan.

With the top level of the dam at 850, it would be possible to generate more than 2,000 MW of electricity and to divert KP’s share of water to irrigate 600,000 acres in D.I. Khan. It will be a run-of-the-river dam, which will always remain full as there will be no withdrawals from the storage at Kalabagh.

I hope the above proposals will be acceptable to all provinces, and the CCI would be able to resolve the issue.


Article 155 (6)

IT is not known whether attention of the Lahore High Court was drawn or not, inter alia, to Article 155 (6) of the Constitution which specifically/apparently prohibits the court’s intervention in water-related matters or complaints dealt, or to be dealt with, by the CCI.

In my opinion, the Kalabagh Dam is a water-related matter. I wish any constitutional expert dilated on the issue, including Article 155 (6) of the Constitution, in the public interest.


Comments (7) Closed

observer Dec 09, 2012 06:11am
Was it LHC or Punjab Assembly that asked for construction of Kalabagh dam?
Ahmed Dec 11, 2012 04:40pm
I strongly endorse the view of Engr about KBD project, other wise the crisis that our future generation will face. they will not forgive us for what we have done today...
Usman Dec 10, 2012 01:59pm
You're right that technocrats should have an influence on the fate of the project (though it should still ultimately be decided by the politicians since that's what they are for). And the fact is, many technical experts are opposed to this project because it's not feasible due to various reasons - most of which are sound and based on valid concerns. Unfortunately, though, the perception in the biggest province is that it's only the politicians from Sindh and KPK who are opposed to this dam. Please try to understand that that's really not the case.
shahidmasud12 Dec 10, 2012 01:08pm
Dear Usman, I am neither a supporter nor an opponent of KBD . What I said was Technocrats should decide the fate of the project , not me or you. Courts or the politicians don't have the ability to do so.
Usman Dec 10, 2012 12:41am
We're talking about human beings, you see; not some numbers and figures you can enter into a spreadsheet using your keyboard to come up with rosy statistics.
Dr Khan Dec 09, 2012 04:40pm
well said.
shahidmasud12 Dec 09, 2012 04:14pm
In my opinion it should be the engineers from Sindh , KPK and Punjab who after avalueting the feasibility of the project should decide whether to build the dam or not. Courts and illiterate politicians have no right to decide the fate of the project. It's a question of simple math. For example if one million Pakistanies have to suffer, but two million Pakistanies going to benefit from the construction of KBD then it must be built and viceversa.