ISLAMABAD, Dec 22: The Skardu-Katzarah dam is the best option for the country and Bhasha dam is much better than Kalabagh, says the report of an expert committee on construction of water resources headed by A.N.G Abbasi.

In its 18-page “Conclusions and Recommendations” on future dams, the eight-member technical committee, calls for honouring and respecting the sanctity of the 1991 Water Accord. It also calls for providing guarantees for existing water uses of the provinces in case of construction of new dams, equitable distribution of existing and future water resources and undoing ministerial decision of 1994 on sharing of water shortages.

The full report has five volumes and is spans over more than 4,000 pages. The last 18 pages of the report, written by Mr Abbasi, were provided to Dawn by sources in the ministry of water and power.

Seven other members of the committee have separately written their joint comments. Minutes of all meetings of the committee, comments of all members and representatives of all relevant government agencies and official record and data is also part of the report. President Gen Pervez Musharraf constituted the committee to develop consensus on construction of new dams about two years ago.

Mr Abbasi has also opposed representation of NWFP and Balochistan in Indus River System Authority on the ground that two provinces remain unaffected due to any water shortage.

Following is the edited text of the “Conclusions and Recommendations” of the technical committee’s report:

On different occasions, Wapda has presented different figures about the availability of water in the country, which has created great confusion. If we take Wapda figures based on downstream approach, it becomes clear that the average water availability in the country is negative to the tune of 0.25 million acre feet (MAF). Sometimes, surplus water is also available but only in case of floods in western rivers.

Wapda has shown an average water flow of 35 MAF in the downstream in 28 years of post-Tarbela (1976-2003) period. A review of Wapda record suggest that in seven out of 28 years, 50 per cent or more of 35 MAF water went downstream Kotri and five per cent or less in another seven years.

Hence, it can be said in the light of post-Tarbela water flows that surplus water is available for storage for 10 out of 28 years. If a dam of six MAF of storage capacity is constructed, then only 22 per cent of the surplus available water can be stored.

Another dam of same capacity could additionally store another 18.9 per cent of available surplus water. This means that two new dams could together store 41 per cent of water in surplus years and remaining 59 per cent water would go downstream.

By comparison with these two dams (Kalabagh and Bhasha), if a carryover dam of 35 MAF (Skardu-Katzarah) storage capacity is constructed, about 84 per cent of water in surplus years could be stored.

If a dam is built with a capacity of six MAF, it can be filled for 10 years in 28 years and if another dam of same capacity is built, it can be filled for seven years and partially filled for three years. A carryover dam of 35 MAF of capacity would be completely filled for three out of 28 years and partially filled for seven years.

WATER SHORTAGE: In Rabi season, 23 MAF of water is available, of which 15 MAF could be stored in Mangla and Tarbela dams. The construction of these two dams has increased the overall water availability by 65 per cent in Rabi season.

Wapda’s post-Tarbela study reveals that surplus water is available in the canal system during Rabi and shortage is experienced for only a few years. On the other hand, shortage is more common during Kharif and hence there is no surplus water to build new dams.

FLOOD CANALS: Flood canals, like Katchi, Rainee and the Greater Thal canal being built under Wapda’s Vision 2025 programme, should be given least priority and maximum preference should be given to 36 million acres of the existing irrigated land. For this, 117.35 MAF water share of provinces as determined in the 1991 Accord should be protected and at least 10 MAF of water below Kotri should be guaranteed.

LINK CANALS: Link canals like Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Punjnad are not permanent canals and replacement works does not in any case mean that these are privileged canals. These link canals could only be operated when there is surplus water in the system and with express consent of Sindh and these should not be a permanent burden on river Indus.

If this proposition continues then the plans for construction of new reservoirs would be jeopardized, as it would increase reservations among the people.

This should also be declared “once and for all” that Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Punjnad are inter-provincial canals and do not belong to Punjab only. Hence, Irsa should not release water to these two canals on the indent of Punjab along and instead these should be operated on all-Pakistan basis under 1991 water accord in an equitable manner.

GUIDELINES FOR LINK CANALS: Water from Indus River should not be diverted through link canals unless all the provinces are given their share approved on 10-daily basis by the council of common interest under the 1991 accord.

In normal circumstances, water should not be released through Chashma-Jhelum and Taunsa-Punjnad canals in Kharif season because there is enough water available in the Jhelum-Chenab Zone during Kharif. If at all there is a need, water should be released in these canals through provincial consensus under 10-dailies approved in the water accord and no more. The CJ and TP should not be operated when Mangla dam is being filled.

GUIDELINES ON DAMS: The storage in future dams should start only after meeting requirement of all the existing barrages on 10-daily basis approved under the 1991 accord and after ensuring separate 10-MAF of water for Kotri Downstream.

Second, the storage in new dams should start after filling the Tarbela dam. In extraordinary situations, when there is surplus water then new dams could also be filled simultaneously.

Third, it should be incorporated in the operation of dams that continuous flushing is taking place simultaneously to ensure that there is no accumulation of silt in dams.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR WATER USES FROM DAMS: First, water from new dams would be utilised to meet only shortages based on 10-daily uses approved by the CCI under the 1991 Water Accord.

Second, the distribution of water from new dams among the provinces should be made under Para-4 of the 1991 Accord that guarantees 37 per cent share each to Sindh and Punjab, 14 per cent for the NWFP and 12 per cent for Balochistan.

Third, new dams would not be filled to the capacity and the filling would be made based on expected annual availability. This means that new dams would not necessarily be filled every year even if these were not filled for 10 years. This principle would also be applicable in case of Tarbela and Mangla dams’ filling.

Four, about 3.2 MAF of storage capacity has been lost in the existing reservoirs due to accumulation of silt, which would be recovered by the completion of raising of Mangla Dam project. If life of the dams is to be enhanced, then the problem of silt would have to be removed which could be done only through installation of sluicing devices. The report said the Wapda has put under the carpet a detailed study under Tam’s Report of 1998 on sluicing devices.

LARGE DAMS: The Wapda has taken no step as required under the year 2000 report of the World Commission on Dams, which had been prepared in the light of experiences of large dams constructed throughout the world. This report should be taken into account before taking any decision on construction of large dams in the country.

RECOMMENDATIONS ON NEW DAMS: Katzarah-Skardu is the only feasible dam for carryover purposes. Its pre-feasibility study has been completed while feasibility study could be completed in three to four years. “This is the best dam for the country” because dams are constructed on four principles, the report said.

These include: a dam should have maximum storage capacity, it could give maximum benefits, it has bare minimum cost and maximum power generation capacity and it should not have a problem of silt. Only Katzarah-Skardu meets these criteria.

The feasibility study of Kalabagh dam was conducted in 1984 and 1988. It has neither been updated since then nor its cost been reviewed. All assumptions used in these studies are pre-water accord period and post- accord figures have so far not been considered. Hence, its feasibility study should be conducted afresh. In the given circumstances, Bhasha dam with a higher potential is much better than Kalabagh dam.

There are a number of reservations on Kalabagh dam, particularly over its right bank canal, left bank canal and flooding of Nowshera. All these issues should be settled to remove reservations and fears.

It may also be pointed out that if Kalabagh and Bhasha dams, if constructed, would not be filled every year and instead would remain empty for years. Besides, these dams would not be able to provide more than two MAF for many years. Hence, large expenditures on new dams should be made after taking into account all these factors.

Furthermore, another thing should also be kept in mind that whenever a new dam is built, preference should be given to the rights of the lower riparians than filling of dams and in case of any shortage, it should be met under the 1991 accord.

The sanctity of the 1991 Water apportionment accord should be ensured and guaranteed and the provinces should be given water share on the basis of 10-daily uses approved by the CCI under para 14(a) and 14(b) of the accord.

The ministerial decision of 1994 has no legal ground and hence should be undone and directives issued by President General Musharraf on October 23 in this regard should be implemented.

If a province is not sharing water shortage, it has no right to be a member of the Irsa. Punjab is drawing higher water share under historic annual average uses of 1977-82, while NWFP and Balochistan does not share shortages. This means that only Sindh suffers in case of shortage, which is totally unjustified. Hence, the water accord should be implemented in letter and spirit and decisions of the CCI should be honoured, the report concluded.

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