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Why Kalabagh Dam?

December 25, 2012

THE Kalabagh dam (KBD) is once again occupying pace in newspapers and TV channels thanks to the verdict of the Lahore High Court. Supporters are portraying the court verdict as a victory for law and justice. Bashir A Malik (Dec 8) and Engr. Pervez Bukhari (Dec 9) have given their views on these pages.

Mr Malik writes that “the current government had contravened the CCI decision of September 1991 by burying the project in May 2008”. But here he fails to mention the 1991 water accord.

While the accord remains buried, water is ‘distributed’ according to the so-called ‘historic usage’ when under the umbrella of Gen Ziaul Haq’s martial law Punjab took water from the Indus according to its wish between 1978 and 1983.

Mr Malik refers to the unanimous resolutions against the KBD by the assemblies of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and sees the approval by the CCI as sacrosanct. I would like to remind the writer that if the CCI is the creation of the constitution of Pakistan, then Pakistan itself was created by the resolution passed by the Sindh Assembly. So, what is more sacrosanct, the decision of the CCI or the resolution of the Sindh Assembly?

Mr Malik talks much about technicalities and labels MPAs passing the resolution as incapable of comprehending the same.

Technically speaking, Sindh has produced top-class engineers like Shaikh Manzoor Ahmed, Abdul Rasool Memon, Idrees Rajput and A.N.G. Abbassi. All of them repeatedly and at different forums proved with hard facts and that the KBD was neither feasible nor viable. If he is still not satisfied, he should then fall in agreement with the IUCN which has recommended that 27 maf water must flow downstream Kotri annually and at least 6,000 cusecs all the time.

Neither condition is fulfilled except when there are high floods like in 2010.

Similarly Engr Pervez Bukhari, while praising the Lahore High Court decision, says: “The Kalabagh Dam would provide 6.5 million acre feet of water to cultivate seven million acres of currently barren land.”

He must be knowing that if built, the KBD would render millions of acres of currently cultivated land in Sindh barren. About two million acres in the coastal districts of Thatta and Badin have already turned barren due to sea intrusion caused by the lack of enough water falling in the sea through the Indus. If accepted, this scenario leads one to believe that the much trumpeted ‘national interest’ is synonymous with the interest of Punjab.

Engr Bhukhari said further that “it is a serious matter for Pakistan’s existence, and the government should keep politicians away from this issue”. First, if politicians are such an anathema to Pakistan’s existence, what about Mohammad Ali Jinnah who was a politician and is credited with the existence of Pakistan?

The KBD is also a serious matter for the existence of Sindh and its civilisation. We know that this is one of the world’s four ancient civilisations and owes its existence to the Indus.

Pakistan is a multinational country and matters of life and death for nations are never decided by courts but by the will of the people because such matters carry the weight of history while courts follow only the law of the day. That is why the subcontinent’s great scholar and statesman Maulana Abul Kalam Azad said that “after battlefield, history’s biggest injustices have taken place in the court rooms”.