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Water crisis in Gwadar

July 12, 2012

THIS refers to the story ‘PPP allies join walkout over water scarcity in Gwadar’ (July 10). It says that the Baloch leader Mir Hasil Bizenjo has suggested that two ship-mounted desalination plants must be sent to Gwadar and Pasni to supply water to 750,000 inhabitants of the two coastal towns. According to the report, the residents of Gwadar are migrating to other areas because of an acute water shortage. The story made depressing reading because this proposal was made by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and the UK Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA) in the mid-1960s when Dr I.H. Usmani was the chairman, PAEC.

Dr Usmani had asked for help in the setting up of a desalination plant for Gwadar and (UKAEA) proposed a ship-mounted desalination plant for whole Makran coast, costing 737,000 British pounds. This is just one example of lost opportunities and lost decades by our rulers.

The details of this proposal have been revealed in a recently declassified report of the UKAEA. The declassified report basically relates to correspondence by Dr Usmani and the UKAEA for setting up a reprocessing laboratory at PINSTECH.

However, on the sidelines, the two sides also talked about a number of other related projects, one of them being a desalination plant for Gwadar.

In response to Dr Usmani’s request, the UKAEA suggested two alternative schemes, one for Gwdar and second for all the communities on the 750km Makran coast, including Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara.

Under the first proposal, the UKAEA recommended two flash distillation plants, each with a capacity of 100,000 gallons per day of fresh water, complete with oil-fired boiler plant and water intake facilities, desalination plant general site facilities, general site facilities, four diesel generating units and electrical distribution facilities. Total cost was estimated at 407,000 pounds.

The second proposal envisaged the use of a ship-borne desalination plant with a capacity of 200,000 gallons per day of water, capable of serving a number of communities along the coast. It said that the ship could use Karachi as a base port, also used to carry cargo and passengers along the coast.

To operate this system, the following facilities were required: one ship borne desalination plant with 200,000 TPD capacity, water storage and distribution facilities at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara including water off loading facilities, four diesel generating units and electrical distribution at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara. Total cost was 737,000 pounds.

The estimates were based on the studies by the UKAEA, British ship Research Association in collaboration with Messrs Weir Westgarth Ltd.

A UKAEA memo dated Jan 26, 1971, also talks about a request from Dr Usmani who served as advisor to the government of Kuwait for information about ‘appropriate UK firms in the desalination field to discuss a plant for the Kuwait area.’ Munir Ahmad Khan, who took over from Dr Usmani at the historic Multan meeting in January 1972, also followed the desalination plant with the UKAEA but the project was soon dwarfed by other pressing activities of the PAEC.


Indifferent attitude

fTHE major source of water (80 per cent) to Gwadar is Akra Kaur dam – a medium-sized water conservation storage dam, which incidentally also minimises the impact of flooding and recharges the subsurface ground water. A recent study to examine the failure of the dam was conducted by this scribe, and a detailed report was submitted to the Government of Balochistan. Unfortunately, no one took any notice.

The dam was designed by Nespak and the major causes of failure that were identified are: under assessment of the maximum flow of the river. This caused the spillway to be destroyed. The spillway should have been larger.

Even basic techniques to reduce sedimentation were not adopted. This caused the storage capacity to be reduced to zero in just three years.

The main recommendations to rehabilitate the dam given in the report are:

Storage capacity can be economically increased by raising the height of the dam by placing short piles on the main dam and having RCC walls on them.

Reduce the sedimentation rate by providing check dams and banks sedimentation controls.