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As water recedes, Khanpur Dam loses its visitors

July 22, 2018

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View of Khanpur Dam spillways with the green valley in the background. The spillways have not been opened since April 2016.
View of Khanpur Dam spillways with the green valley in the background. The spillways have not been opened since April 2016.

Framed by green mountains, the scenic Khanpur Dam is popular not just with nature lovers but also people from nearby cities, who flock to the area for water sports, fishing, boating, rock climbing and even bird watching in the winter.

The cool water from the dam’s canals also brings young people from Rawalpindi and Islamabad to take a dip in the lake as a respite from the summer weather.

Once a magnificent sight, the Khanpur Lake is now drying up due to the lack of rainfall in the dam’s catchment area. Mr Ali said the water level in the lake – 1920ft – is the lowest water level in two decades.

The last time the spillways were opened to let out extra water, an eye-catching scene that was common in the monsoon, was April 8, 2016.

The scenic right bank of Khanpur Dam.
The scenic right bank of Khanpur Dam.

The lack of water in the lake has also affected tourism. Dam geologist Irfan Khan Khattak said: “At present due to the low water in the lake, tourist activities are on the decline and will be improved after it rains.”

Khanpur Dam is located on the Haro River, a tributary of the Indus River which originates from the Galiyat. It is also fed by smaller streams, such as Stora Haro – which begins at the base of the Nathiagali Hills, Neelam stream – which begins from Nara Hills and Kunhad stream – which comprises waters from Langrial and other small nullahs from various areas including Jab, Hally Desera and Najafpur.

Khanpur Dam is situated near the Potohar Plateau, in the Khanpur village around 40 kilometres from Islamabad. The dam was commissioned in 1983, after a 15-year construction period, and made perational 1984-5 with an allocation of Rs1.4 million.

The layout plan of Khanpur Dam. — Photos by the writer
The layout plan of Khanpur Dam. — Photos by the writer

The dam caters to the domestic water supply of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and also supplies water for agricultural purposes to Haripur, Taxila and Attock.

According to the dam’s project engineer Taj Ali, the live storage of the Khanpur reservoir is 79,980 acre ft. Water from the reservoir is released through the left and right bank canals. The right bank canal has a design discharge of 110ft 3/s (cusecs) and supplies water for irrigation, while the right bank canal has a design discharge of 440ft 3/s (cusecs) and supplies water for irrigation and municipal and industrial purposes. The left and right canals are 18km and 11km long, respectively.

An official operates the gates of the spillway.
An official operates the gates of the spillway.

The canals were handed over to the provincial irrigation departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in 1985 and 1987, respectively. The left bank canal at its tail-end delivers water to the Sangjani Raw Water Reservoir, which is controlled by the Capital Development Authority and from which water is supplied after being treated to Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2018