Faisal Ali Ghumman:
Water, one of the Allah Almighty’s countless blessings on earth and a precious jewel, is fast losing its importance in the eyes of Pakistanis at a time when developing economies are strongly realizing its significance and storing it by building large, middle and small scale water reservoirs and dams.
Not far away, one takes a look at border country India who has been intruding into the water rights of Pakistan in violation of the Indus Water Treaty 1960 by constructing hydro-electric power projects on western rivers for the sake of her growing population and irrigation needs.
Our border country and time-tested friend China has over 80,000 reservoirs and 4,800 dams as of 2005 while India has more than 3,200 dams and reservoirs by 2012 to cater agricultural, irrigational and electricity needs. Turkey has over 350 dams to its credit. Another border state Iran has 588 big and small dams, 137 others are under construction and 546 are planned.
Pakistan’s central water authority (Wapda) has only three major dams-Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoir- at its portfolio and claims commencement of the construction of two other major projects Basha Diamir Dam and Mohmand Dam with gross storage capacity of 8.1 million acre feet (MAF) and 1.3MAF respectively. Its two projects Gomal Zam Dam and Kuram Tangi Dam are recently under construction.
Pakistani political and military regimes including few strongest regimes like of Bhutto, Zia and Musharraf even couldn’t dare to construct Kala Bagh and Basha Diamir Dams, usually considered the biggest water storage facilities and power generation spinners, despite technical advisory and feasibilities.
The political divides among four federating units and stubborn attitudes of regional politicians having limited vote bank against savior-oriented projects kept lingering the constructions and causing a huge quantity of valuable water surrendering to the sea water.
The current winter season is being termed the worst in terms of water flows in rivers, dams and barrages, and big canals in the light of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA)’s recent warning of a looming water crisis in Pakistan as only 2,20,000 cusec acres of water is available in reserves to meet the growing water demand in the country.
The IRSA spokesman has recently been quoted as saying that in the current situation, only exceptional monsoon or early glacial melting would ensure that dams were filled to full capacity, otherwise the situation may turn worse not only in the Kharif but also in the Rabi season.
The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) had already issued a warning that the country may run dry by 2025 if the authorities did not take immediate action to pacify the situation. According to PCRWR, Pakistan touched the “water stress line” in 1990 and crossed the “water scarcity line” in 2005.
According to Wapda’s estimates shared with this writer, Pakistan is losing average 30MAF water because of lack of storage facilities as Pakistan’s storage capacity is 10 percent of annual flow of 145 MAF. The global storage capacity stands around 40 percent of the annual flows.
On the one hand we are facing acute shortage of water by not constructing water reservoirs and on the other are failing to stop India from using our water share of western rivers-Indus, Chenab and Jhelum- and building dams in violation of the IWT. The treaty bounds India not to store and divert water flow of these rivers for any purpose.
The recent World Bank’s refusal to interfere into IWT violation after Pakistan lodged complaint that India constructed Kishangana Hydro-electric power project in Indian held Kahsmir can turn the balloon goes up any time for Pakistan in terms of agricultural devastation, droughts and mass deaths.
According to a leading cotton grower in South Punjab, the main canals of Punjab are almost close for cotton and other Kharif crops now-a -days against the normal flows of such canals by October of every year. And this is because of worsening rivers’ situation.
The growers, who are only dependent on canal water have less underground water, are likely to face their crops devastated.
Setting aside the criticism by some politicians having vested agendas, if the upcoming government puts focus on speedily building only two mega dams-KBD and Basha Dam, Pakistan can store 6.5MAF with 3,600megawatts power generation capacity and 8.1MAF water with power generation capacity of 4,500megawatts respectively.
Ongoing intensive social media campaign in favour of KBD and other reservoirs is an eye-opener for rulers, politicians and bureaucracy to forget personal scores to settle and make concrete steps to effectively handle the water dispute with India and build reservoirs in a quick manner.
Who and what motives have stopped the successive regimes to enforce writ of the state in situations of national emergencies among of them water tops the chart. Any negligence committed by anyone should be considered a state crime and lead to public hanging as it is a matter of future generations and future food needs of the country.