Kalabagh: Development or Disaster


Sindh Water Committee and Anti–Greater Thal Canal Committee, Hyderabad

Courtesy: Daily Dawn

THIS refers to Engr Mazhar Ali’s article ‘Kalabagh dam: development or disaster’ (April 29) in which he has spoken about the merits of constructing new dams on the River Indus. In the footnote he has been described as a member of the Technical Committee on Water Resources (TCWR). But unless there was a printing error in the report (Dawn, Dec 27, 2005), the committee member was Dr Iqbal Ali.

However, Dr. Iqbal Ali or Engr Mazhar Ali both hold the same views about mega dams, especially about Kalabagh. Dr Iqbal Ali, who represented Sindh in the TCWR, sided with the six members of the other three provinces and cast his opinion against the official view of the Sindh government (and its elected assembly), which maintains that there is not enough water in the system for another dam. In fact, the non-Sindhi member of Sindh stood in opposition to every term of reference of the TCWR that could have gained advantage for the province he was representing.

It does not require higher mathematics to calculate availability of water in the system. The average water flow in the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab (for years 1922 – 2002) was 138 MAF (139.82 MAF, post Tarbela). Out of this, 114.35 MAF is allocated to the provinces for the 36 million canal irrigated acres of Pakistan. (Incidentally, the only point on which all members were unanimous was the primacy of maintaining this allocation).

Another 11 MAF will be utilised by the under-construction projects (2.9 MAF behind raised Mangla walls, 4.8 for Rainee, Katchi and Greater Thal canals, 1.0 MAF Gomal-zam dam, etc). Downstream Kotri release, as recommended by experts, is 8.6 MAF. This brings the grand total to 134 MAF. The group of seven did not allocate water for urban and industrial uses that Vision 2025 estimates at 5 MAF by 2025. Another deliberate omission was the estimation of systems losses necessarily accompanying large dams.

But averages can work only where water available in the years of plenty is all stored and then spent in the years of shortage. Even a child will understand the fallacy of working with averages when it is explained to him that 84 per cent water of the largest river, Indus, including the Kabul (average 82 MAF), flows down in only 90 days of the year, and the second largest river, the Chenab (33 MAF), has no site for storage in its flow path in Pakistan. The excess water of both rivers in the peak months of July – September will always flow out to sea.

Even management of such a system is difficult unless an intricate method is adopted to operate it as a single unit. And that brings us to the second point of the grave misgivings of the people of Sindh. One example will suffice.

The Jhelum and the Chenab are early rising rivers in which water starts flowing in April (the Indus in comparison starts rising in June). Mangla and Tarbela are emptied by t March 31 and early kharif sowing in Sindh starts in April (in Punjab it starts about two months later). April is, therefore, the most critical period for Sindh. The logic of integrated management demands that the early flowing waters of the Jhelum and the Chenab should be given to Sindh in April and Indus waters diverted to Punjab in June. But what has been happening? The chairman of TCWR reports that in 25 years of the post-Tarbela period (1976 – 2001), waters of the Jhelum have continuously been impounded in Mangla from April 1, when they are needed most by Sindh, and in 20 out of those 25 years in the month of July more than one MAF has been released, when all rivers of Pakistan are in high flood. Also not in a single year since its inception in 1967 has a drop of Mangla water been given to Sindh although all provinces of Pakistan paid its loan.

There are literally hundreds of such senseless actions that border on malevolence and downright anti-Sindhiism. Meanwhile anyone, howsoever exalted or big an expert who says that Sind has no cogent reason to oppose dams on the Indus or that he should be believed that dams will be beneficial for Sindh, is living in a fool’s paradise.

Source – http://www.dawn.com/2006/05/11/letted.htm#1

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