A delegation representing 15,000 people affected and displaced by the 2007 floods in southern Balochistan have been visiting Islamabad this week, and Lahore last week, in an attempt to lobby politicians and officials connected to the Planning Commission (PC) and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) to release compensation amounting to Rs4 billion.

They hope to have their wishes met in a meeting scheduled at Wapda House in Lahore on April 2.

The delegation, led by resource activist Sharif Shambezi, argues that the 2007 floods were significantly worsened by the presence of the Mirani Dam, a multi-billion rupee construction commissioned by Wapda, designed by National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) and completed by Mirani Dam Joint Venture, a consortium led by Descon Engineering. The dam was built as part of Wapda’s Vision-2025, a programme launched during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf aimed to generate 16,000 MW of hydroelectricity, prevent water shortage, limit drought and increase water storage.

The dam construction, especially that of Mirani Dam, has however been criticised by various activists.

“Take Mirani Dam. The original design assumed that land 244 feet above mean sea level (AMSL) would remain flood-free after the construction of the dam. So those responsible budgeted, acquired land and planned compensation accordingly,” says Quaid-i-Azam University lecturer and activist Mushtaaq Gaadi.

“When Nespak designed the dam, they told me that there was no way that the water levels would ever reach any point above 241 feet AMSL,” a federal government source not wishing to be named added.

“But when Cyclone Yemyin hit the Makran Coast, the subsequent heavy rainfall caused massive floods in southern Balochistan with the worst hit city being Turbat. Usually, the natural flows of rivers have their own ways of draining out excess water. But the Mirani Dam obstructed the drainage, causing flooding in areas up to 271.4 feet AMSL,” Gaadi explains.

Wapda has paid compensation to those who have lost land, trees and houses up to 244 feet AMSL, and have given into compensating land and water resources damaged up to 265 feet AMSL. However, according to a document provided by Shambezi, less than half of the money (Rs556 million out of a promised Rs1,131 million) has been released, and those living on the highest lands (between 265 and 271.4 feet AMSL) have yet to be compensated.

The long wait

“The compensation of the highest lands – estimated at Rs4 billion – was surveyed and established by the district coordination officer (DCO) of Kech in 2010. He carried out the survey after an order issued in 2007 by the then President Pervez Musharraf,” says Shambezi.

In a letter dated July 21, 2007, the Planning and Development Department of Balochistan asked the DCO Turbat to carry out a “survey and assessment” of the affectees on lands between 265 and 271.4 feet ASML. It took three years for the DCO to produce a survey in September 2010.

During a visit to Mirani Dam in May 2011, Wapda Chairman Mohammad Shakil Durrani along with the chief secretary of Balochistan “decided to request the Planning Commission (to send...) a team to ascertain submitted claims of the affected people,” according to a document prepared by Wapda on November 4, 2011.

Shambezi and his delegation visited Lahore in June 2011. In a letter addressed to Durrani, the delegation explains that they were told by secretary (Wapda), Mohammad Imtiaz Tajwar, that they were still waiting for “a letter from the Balochistan government to release the compensation amount.” Really, PC had still not sent a team to Balochistan to ascertain the extent of damages, the only survey in existence still being the one prepared by the DCO of Kech.

The discrepancy of expectations and understandings around the case of the Mirani Dam affected persons prompted Wapda to send a letter to the Planning Commission on August 24, 2011, proposing the formation of a technical committee to explore the claims of the affected people.

The PC answered on September 9, 2011, with the approval of Member (Infrastructure) Ghulam Mohayuddin Marri, nominating six people to sit on the committee: two from the government of Balochistan, two from Wapda, one from the Planning Commission and the commissioner from the Makran division in Kech district.

A term of reference was prepared on November 4, 2011, with the approval of member (water) Syed Raghib Abbas, with the explicit purpose of guiding “the technical committee formed to evaluate the compensation of the victims.

“Unfortunately, the committee has not met even once since its formation. That is why we decided to set up a hunger strike camp in front of Wapda to force them to take our issues seriously,” says Shambezi.

A federal government source said the new rules under the 18th amendment and NFC Award meant that any money released would have to be taken from the funds given to the government of Balochistan by the federal government. However, despite the source’s willingness to meet the demands of the delegation, he denied any faulty design in the dam.

“Wapda and Nespak planned and budgeted to the best of their ability. We cannot control fate, the floods were an act of fate,” the source said.

“It cannot be denied that the faulty designs have caused great damage to many places in Pakistan,” says Gaadi.

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