ISLAMABAD: At least two provinces — Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — resisted moves on Thursday to start discussions on construction of the controversial Kalabagh dam and put their finances in a Rs178 billion flood protection programme for 10 years.
This was the crux of a follow-up session to a recent meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) which asked the minister for water and power and four chief ministers to firm up a 10-year (2015-16 to 2024-25) flood protection programme (FPP).
The meeting, presided over by Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, the federal minister for climate change, irrigation ministers of Punjab and KP and heads of flood-related agencies.
Soon after the meeting, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said his government won’t allow construction of Kalabagh dam or any other reservoir downstream of Tarbela because it meant turning his province into a completely barren land.
CCI meeting approves Flood Protection Programme
Because of opposition from the provinces, the meeting approved a document for the FPP with consensus, but decided to take up the matter of its financing as a top priority item at the next CCI meeting on March 25.
Sources in the Federal Flood Commission told Dawn that FPP envisaged an expenditure of Rs177.66bn in 10 years to strengthen river banks, bunds and related infrastructure, with 23 per cent financing from the centre and the rest from the provinces. As such, Punjab’s share of funding was set at Rs23bn, followed by Sindh’s Rs21bn, KP’s Rs20bn and Balochistan’s Rs18bn. The centre is to contribute about Rs42bn while the remaining funding has to come from international agencies and regional governments like AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata.
Mr Shah told a news conference that it was for the first time that the provinces were being asked to share financing of the flood protection plan.
He termed “peanuts” the share offered by the federal government for financing the 4th flood protection plan, saying all the three FPPs in the past were prepared in consultations with the provinces and were fully financed by the centre.
He said all chief ministers were supposed to attend the FPP meeting on Thursday, but only he made it because water was his top priority while other chief ministers had other engagements. He said the centre told the provinces that it would limit its role to monitoring of implementation of the FPP and issuing flood warnings. He said the ministers and representatives from other provinces also asked the federal government to continue financing the FPPs as was the case in the past.
The Sindh chief minister said he sought a 10-year plan for drought management, along with flood management, given that drought was continuously affecting tens of districts in Sindh, particularly Tharparkar, compared with floods that occurred once in 10 years.
Mr Shah said Sindh had single-handedly financed, fed, settled and looked after millions of people displaced by 2010 and 2011 devastating floods affecting nine districts on the Right Bank of Indus and 16 districts on the Left Bank.
He said the PPP government of the time at the centre did not honour its commitment to share responsibility to settle people affected by floods and droughts and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also did not fulfil his.
An official said Punjab’s chief secretary pointed out that construction of Kalabagh dam should be taken as a priority to minimise devastation caused by floods every year.
The Sindh chief minister said three provincial assemblies had passed resolutions against the proposed dam and not only the Kalabagh but no other dam could be allowed downstream Tarbela. He said floods were also important to protect three Sindh districts of Thatta, Badin and Sujawal from sea intrusion that had already eaten up two million acres.
An official said the KP’s irrigation minister also told the meeting that it was not the right forum to discuss construction of dams and the government should avoid raising controversial issues.
Khawaja Asif, however, assured the participants that the irrigation authorities had firmed up the FPP and it was not their domain to decide as to where should the finances come from. He said the FPP would be taken up at the next CCI meeting and the issues relating to finances would need to be decided by the country’s political leadership.
The minister appreciated the spirit displayed by all the federating units and territories during the preparatory meetings and for arriving at a consensus document. He said that due to the global climate change and its particular impact on Pakistan in recent years, the frequency and intensity of floods and corresponding damages have increased manifold, making it imperative to have an integrated and innovative approach to flood protection.
The meeting was informed by the FFC that overall damage due to floods over the last six years was almost equal to the losses suffered over the previous 60 years.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2016