PML-Q seminar calls for Kalabagh Dam construction

Updated November 17, 2014

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A view of Kalabagh river. — Kohi Marri/File
A view of Kalabagh river. — Kohi Marri/File
The edge of Kalabagh town. — Kohi Marri/File
The edge of Kalabagh town. — Kohi Marri/File

ISLAMABAD: Participants at a seminar on Kalabagh Dam were informed that if the dam is constructed 3,600 additional megawatts of electricity would be produced and per unit cost will be less than two rupees. The ‘National Seminar on Kalabagh Dam’ was organised by Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) at a local hotel on Sunday.

Speakers demanded that the Kalabagh Dam, which can be constructed within six years at an estimated cost of $8-10 billion, should be started without delay.

They said the province of Balochistan is the only federating unit that lacks an effective system for taking its authorised share of water. They demanded that a barrage specifically for this purpose should be built on River Indus.

Also read: Pakistan floods trigger fresh dam debate

They said that Sindh is particularly water deprived and can benefit from the dam. Sindh should allocate 2 million acre-feet of water exclusively for Thar from the Kalabagh Dam while Punjab’s share should go to Southern Punjab, specifically Cholistan.

PML-Q Punjab President Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said Kalabagh Dam was conceived in our best national interest but political differences prevented it from becoming a reality.

He said that this project is for our future generations and everyone must play their role in its construction.

Mr Elahi said that during the tenure of Pakistan People’s Party, Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif used to hold protests at Minar-i-Pakistan against electricity loadshedding. He said the chief minister claimed that he would resolve the issue of electricity within six months if his party comes to power.

“However now electricity loadshedding has increased further and Rs18 per unit is being charged, compared to Rs5 per unit charged when I was chief minister Punjab,” he said.

Mr Elahi claimed that while he was CM Punjab, heads of the other three provinces had a meeting with him and demanded that electricity and gas should be distributed according to how much each province produces. He said that he accepted the proposal but under the condition that Kalabagh Dam is constructed. “Because of my condition all three chief ministers went back without saying a word. However Sharif brothers accepted that formula with a condition to remove the ban on becoming prime minister for the third time,” he said.

“Punjab is facing loadshedding of electricity and gas because of the 18th Amendment in which the formula regarding use of resources as per production in provinces was approved,” he said. He said that every year, 4 million acre-foot water is drained into the sea and also becomes a reason for floods.

Using the opportunity to talk about the political situation in the country, Pervaiz Elahi criticised the current government for the law and order situation in the country.

“The Punjab government has failed to maintain law and order and it has no writ over the province. While I was chief minister, Punjab was polio free but now once again polio cases are being reported,” he said.

He condemned the shooting on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf rally which left eight workers injured on Sunday.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Elahi said the sit-ins had increased political awareness among the people. He said the PML-Q had no differences with Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Tahirul Qadri will return on November 20. He added that PML-Q is going to hold a public meeting in Bahawalpur on November 22.

Former chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Shamsul Mulk said Kalabagh Dam was proposed by the World Bank and by 1977 a feasibility report was prepared by experts.

“If Kalabagh Dam had been constructed in time, per unit cost of electricity would be Rs1.52 but at the moment the government has been generating electricity at the cost of Rs18 per unit. We should understand that this is the price we are paying for, for not constructing the dam,” he said.

Mr Mulk said that in the last 50 years China had constructed 22,000 dams, India over 6,000 dams and United States 7,500 dams in the last century.

Former finance minister Dr Salman Shah said water resources were a key to development. Without water security, there will be no food security and energy security will be compromised. “Pakistan can currently store water to meet needs of only 29 days. On the other hand India stores water to meet the need for next 200 days,” he said.

Senator Saeedul Hassan Mandokhail, said that people of Balochistan are in the favour of Kalabagh Dam. He said that because of unavailability of water residents of Quetta will start migrating within five to 10 years so we desperately need water.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2014