ISLAMABAD: After an extended hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court held that water resources were crucial for survival and directed the authorities to take immediate and effective measures to build two dams — Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand.

The court also ordered the federal government, the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and the executive authority to take effective measures in the light of decisions taken by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to develop the 4,500MW capacity Diamer Bhasha Dam and the 700MW capacity Mohmand Dam, said a short order, the detailed reasons of which will be issued later.

The court also sought a report with detailed timelines and milestones which is to be submitted by the relevant authorities within three weeks. Separately, the court constituted an implementation committee to oversee the execution of the works.

The committee will be led the Wapda chairperson, and will comprise experts and officials of the federal and KP governments.

CJP donates Rs1m, asking people to donate for Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams

A four-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, appealed to the people to contribute generously in foreign and local currency for the construction of the dams. The donations will be deposited in a special public account dedicated solely for the construction of dams. Taking the lead, the chief justice announced that he would donate Rs1 million for the construction of dams.

The Supreme Court, on a suo motu, had taken up a report by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) regarding acute water scarcity in Pakistan, as well as a petition by Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party seeking directions for the construction of the Kalabagh dam.

The need for water reservoirs is not only expedient but also sine qua non for the survival of the people and economy of Pakistan, the court said, adding that the two dams must be built on an urgent basis by the federal government, and in this regard, there was no dispute among the provinces.

The right to life is a fundamental right and without water there can be no existence of life, the short order said. Therefore, under provisions of Article 184(3) of the Constitution read with Article 9, as guardians of fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to issue necessary directions to the government for the practical enforcement of the right to life.

Under Article 78, any funds deposited in a public account of the federation can be dedicated for a specified project or purpose. The court issued directions to set up an account, for the time being under the name of the Supreme Court registrar, in which the people of Pakistan would donate money to be spent on constructing dams. The order made it clear that those funds will not be diverted or utilised for any purpose other than the construction of the dams.

The court said that no authority or department, save the tax authorities, could ask questions about the source of funds deposited in the account. However, utilisation of the funds would be subject to audit as per directions of the court. The chief justice observed that the nation was starving to contribute their share for the constructions of the dams.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said the issue of water was not about improving quality of life anymore, but had become a matter of survival.

Pakistan Commission for Indus Waters Syed Mohammad Mehr Ali told the Supreme Court that Pakistan’s water storage capacity was at 13.7 million acres feet (MAF). Annually, the country wastes nearly 19 MAF of water. Ideally, we should have been building a dam after every ten years, he said, adding that the country is fortunate that Rs22bn has been earmarked for it in the public sector development programme (PSDP) for the current financial year.

Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan emphasised the need to impose a water pricing regime, and added that as an input for agriculture, water cost Rs170 per acre whereas fertilisers and other inputs cost Rs1,900.

The Wapda chairperson explained that the government had already approved Rs244bn for the construction of Bhasha Dam in the next 10 years as well as Rs140bn for the Mohmand Dam, while Wapda has been asked to generate Rs450bn from its own resources.

He assured the court that there was uninterrupted supply of funds and that Wapda will make sure the two dams are built.

Former Wapda chairman Shamsul Mulk termed Kalabagh Dam his baby and said when the Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960, the world viewed Pakistan as an emerging Asian tiger. Mr Mulk insisted that Kalabagh Dam alone could solve many problems of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018