KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Tuesday that he was not against the construction of the Bhasha dam but had “some reservations” about its “location and availability of water in the system” in such a quantity that the dam could be filled.
He was talking to media at the mausoleum of the Quaid-i-Azam where he had come along with Governor Imran Ismail and members of his cabinet to pay tribute to the Father of the Nation on his 70th death anniversary. After laying a wreath and offering Fateha, the chief minister had an interaction with media personnel.
On a question about the Bhasha dam, he said it (the dam site) lay in the seismic area and the quantity of water required to fill the dam was not available in the (Indus) system.
Says quantity of water needed to fill the reservoir is not available in Indus system; cautions about sea intrusion if 25MAF water is not released downstream Kotri
Elaborating on the water position in the Indus system, he said that last year instead of 10 million acre feet (MAF) only 7.5MAF water was released downstream Kotri.
“As a matter of fact, 25MAF water is required [downstream Kotri], otherwise the sea would keep encroaching further upon nearby villages (in the coastal area of Thatta district),” he said. “The history of last 10 years’ water releases downstream Kotri shows that for six years it was less than 10MAF and then it went down further by two to four MAF.”
Mr Shah said that the record of water releases downstream Kotri from 1922 to this date was available with the provincial government (of Sindh). “If anybody wants to verify the figures they are most welcome,” he added.
“Availability of water in the system is a big issue.”
He recalled that “before the construction of the Tarbela dam, 70MAF water was released downstream Kotri at an average and our [Indus] delta was thriving”.
“The Indus delta, which provides habitat to hundreds of different species of marine and wildlife, has been recognised as one of the largest deltas of Asia covering an area of around 14,600 square kilometres,” the chief minister said. “We have to protect it by releasing river water into it, otherwise all nearby villages and cities will vanish into the sea,” he said.
Mr Shah said that the Bhasha dam project was originally initiated by the Pakistan Peoples Party (government), but objections were raised on its technical issues. Therefore, he insisted, “the centre needs to take the federating units on board” over such controversial projects.
The chief minister said that his government and party’s policy on construction of dams was very clear as the Sindh government was constructing 34 small dams and work on them had almost been completed while work on 16 other (small) dams was to begin soon.
In reply to another question, Mr Shah warned against any attempt to roll back the 18th Amendment saying that the amendment “provides provincial autonomy which has strengthened parliamentary form of government in the country”. “Any attempt to roll it [18th Amendment back will be strongly resisted,” the chief minister warned.
“The 18th Constitutional Amendment was passed by the National Assembly in 2010 and a parliamentary committee comprising over 27 members from all parliamentary parties had drafted it with collective wisdom and [after] extensive discussion with all stake holders” he recalled.
“I am sure the federal government would not disturb it [18th Amendment], but if any such attempt is made, it will meet a strong resistance,” the CM said.
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018