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Kalabagh dam and court decision


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THE Lahore High Court had been hearing several petitions (including the one by this scribe) requesting for a direction to the government for construction of the Kalabagh Dam to afford earliest relief to the people from violation of their fundamental rights by unending loadshedding and growing water scarcity.

On Nov 29, LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial directed the federal government to construct the Kalabagh Dam in compliance with the decision of the Council of Common Interests taken on Sept 16, 1991.

This is a bold and laudable decision by the LHC chief justice. His decision has been welcomed by the people with great joy. It assured them of the much-needed relief from continuing violation of their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, due to unbearable hardship of loadshedding, and water and food scarcity.

In fact, the current government had contravened the CCI decision of September 1991 by burying the project in May 2008. The court decision has irked some politicos. Their contention that three provincial assemblies of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had passed resolutions against the construction of the dam was nothing but a house of cards.

They conveniently forget that the decision by the LHC chief justice to build the dam was based on the fact that its construction was approved by the CCI in 1991. Secondly, we should be aware that the Kalabagh Dam is a highly complex gigantic hydraulic engineering undertaking.

To understand even the rudimentary elements of a multi-purpose project as the Kalabagh Dam and to pass resolutions based on judgment on their merits or demerits without technical help falls, with due respect, beyond comprehension of our members of the provincial assemblies and parliament.

None of the assemblies in question called for any briefing by competent engineers before passing resolutions opposing the construction of the Kalabagh Dam.

I have been associated with Mangla, Tarbela and Kalabagh Dams since June 1956 even before Wapda was built. I studied many more abroad as chief technical adviser to the United Nations.

In my technical assessment, economically and environmentally the Kalabagh Dam would be by far the best project on the Indus. It is the only river with surplus water to be stored in summer and released for irrigation of Rabi (winter) crops, predominantly wheat.

The Kalabagh Dam will yield live storage of 6.1 million acre feet. It will help irrigate at least four million acres of cropland. Water released for irrigation will be passed through a power house to generate 3,600 megawatts of much cheaper and environment-friendly hydropower as a byproduct.

Electricity produced at Kalabagh will be about one rupee a unit against Rs16 to Rs20 of thermal power paid by people. Water stored will be shared by all four provinces according to their fixed shares. Water power generated at the Kalabagh Dam will also be used by the whole country through the Wapda national grid.

With its designs and contract documents already finalised and with World Bank funding certain, first power units of the Kalabagh Dam, if implemented on a war footing, could begin supply of electricity five to six years after the start of the construction, much earlier than any other project on the Indus.

In short, only the Kalabagh Dam could afford urgently needed relief from crippling agony of unending loadshedding, water scarcity and skyrocketing prices, etc., in the shortest possible timeframe. We may name it Pakistan dam.

BASHIR A. MALIK Former Chief Technical Adviser, UN/World Bank     Lahore

Comments (9) Closed

Akram Dec 08, 2012 12:50pm
this dam is being opposed in my understanding as the smaller provinces fear a reduction of water resources, in order to allay any fears. They should be involved in its construction, and monitoring of allocation of any future water resources. Without consensus, all should go without, and suffer with power blackouts till they come to consensus. Lack of consensus will only cause more problems in Pakistan.
farmerdr Dec 09, 2012 05:13am
I agree completely that the Kalabagh Dam is a good project. I disagree completely that any court should trespass so far into the domain of parliament as to start interfering with policy.
imran Dec 08, 2012 11:56pm
I donot agree with the writer, he hide many facts such as: (1) The current foreign loans on Pakistan reach upto $58 billion dollars and the factual position is that Pakistan even cannot pay its instalments properly on time. However, for the construction of Controversial KBD project in Punjab the government has to take the loan of atleast $10 billion dollars. This will push up loans against Pakistan to $68 billion dollars. The Kalabagh dam is not a financial project that will earn and enable the amount borrowed to be immediately returned. (2) A large number of people would be displaced. We have the example of the Tarbela dam where all the displaced people could not be settled even after 37 years. The Kalabagh dam will render, according to Wapda, more than 120,000 people homeless. (3) Because of seepage and evaporation about 40 per cent of water will become useless. In case of collapse of dam, it will bring unprecedented ruination. There are examples of such devastation before us. Therefore, construction of small dams should be encouraged. (4) The Kalabagh site is in the salt range and also in the earthquake zone. In a seminar held at PIIA, Karachi, the former director-general of the Geological Survey of Pakistan, Mr Hamza Ali Kazmi, disclosed that the site of the controversial Kalabagh dam was in the earthquake zone. Further, The Wapda consultants in volume-3 (Geological Facts) of their 1983 report had identified ?Kalabagh fault and salt diaprism?, raising risks about the construction of the Kalabagh dam.? It is fact that today in world majority of countries refusing to make large dams due to its disadvantages. The world over expert opinion has gone increasingly against big dams. They are found to have progressively lost their utility, interfered with ecology, and uprooted populations from traditional settlements. Experts feel small dams could do a better job. The former IRSA chairman Engineer Fatehullah Gandapur, himself had rightly said: ?The design of the Kalabagh dam is not of the nature where floodwater can be stored.? Therefore KBD would have not deposited water in abundance. One should know that national unity is more important than the Kalabagh dam. Previously we made a blunder by ignoring the wishes of East Pakistan and lost the province. We can?t afford to repeat the blunder. Moreover, such example to make dam only for interest of one province has never seen before in the history of world. The court should avoid taking the decision that is based on the discrimination and in the interest of one province only. No doubt, such decision is dangerous for the unity of federation. I appeal the Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan to take Suo Moto action on this understanding the grievances the people of three minor provinces in the form of pass resolutions and in the larger interest of the saving federation. In view of the ground realities and understanding the hazards of big dams the government should focus on building of small dams that are less costly and also more beneficial. Further, all provinces are agree constructions of small dams.
g.a.Shirazi Dec 08, 2012 06:38pm
If you divert 6.1 million acre ft out of the system what will happen to the ecological needs below Jamshoro?
Osman Dec 08, 2012 11:55am
And some may name it 'Anti-Pakistan Dam'
Ebraheem Khan Dec 08, 2012 06:06am
As a common citizen i think this letter should be an eye opener for the Parlimentarians. Had i been an authority, i would have gone after expert opinion,over construction of kalabagh dam, rather than a bunch of parlimentarians whose educational making useless and unfounded predictions about proposed dams. .My woe is cheap electricity and comfortable summer and Ramzan,
NASAH (USA) Dec 10, 2012 03:24am
Good or bad -- it is none of the business of the court to order building of a Dam. It takes more than judicial magic wand to build an engineering colossus without considering its short term and long term consequences on the surrounding provinces especially Sindh.
Usman Dec 10, 2012 01:07am
I wish I could give your comment more than one thumbs-up
mohammad shafiq Dec 09, 2012 05:21pm
strange how all letters in support of KBD emanate from lahore possibly because punjab produces the most wheat and wants to bring more land under cultivation at the cost of sindh's coastal areas