Seminar on Water Crisis and its solutions Mar 10

by Khurshid Anwer


Organised by the ‘Insan Welfare Society of Pakistan at the PC Lahore.

Sardar Arif Rasheed, former Minister for Irrigation, presided.

(notes within brackets are mine)

Commissioner on Indus Water Treaty Syed Jamaat Ali Shah stressed the need of constructing maximum dams and reservoirs in the country in order to save water and resolve water issues.

(this is also essential for increasing the meager 30 day contingency reserves which puts us at the mercy of India).

He said due to unavailability of sufficient number of dams and reservoirs not less than 26 million acre of water is being wasted every year.

(the Indus delta needs only 4.32 maf per annum, the rest is being wasted. This amount has to be stored in dams and a monthly dose of 0.36 released for year round protection of the delta)

The capacity of present reservoirs and dams is insufficient as well because silt was decreasing their storage capacity.

Construction of dams and reservoirs in the country have become a political issue and it was the main obligation of the governments to construct maximum number of dam in order to save water not only for the sake of producing energy but also saving agriculture sector of the country, which is on decline due to shortage of water.

Unfortunately, the construction of water reservoirs and dams particularly the construction of Kalabagh Dam could not be started due to unstable democratic set up in the country while the politicians used the construction of Kalabagh dam for their political motives only, he added.

change of governments also affect the running policies. However, technical persons are performing their duties in this regard properly but usually influenced by the political figures.

(I had said in my speech that there was no coherent national policy on a serious issue like water, and every government goes by its own whims)

All, including politicians and technocrats are to be blamed for the construction of Baglihar Dam on Chanab River as they did not initiate timely action.

Although the Indus water Treaty was not a happy marriage but we own this treaty because Tarbela and Mangla Dams were constructed under this Treaty.

(even if IWT was a gun-shot wedding, what are we achieving by criticizing it while India takes full advantage of it)

Indus Water Treaty did not restrict any party regarding number of construction of dams but the thing to see is whether negotiations regarding the articles of Indus Water Treaty are according to the wanted spirit of treaty or not otherwise we would have to make a think tank.

(rather late in the day)

Negotiations with India are important instead of going in UNO or International Court of Arbitration because ICA would ask us to negotiate with India before contacting the court.

He suggested that Marala must be linked with Mangla Dam in order to resolve the issue of water shortfall in Mangla, which although would be in violation of Indus Water Treaty.

(this idea was forcefully floated by Sardar Arif Rashid who considered it a defence requirement)

We have in fact weakened our case by saying that we are wasting run of water, he added.

(we are allowing around 20 maf to run to sea which is allowing India to store that water).

He concluded that agriculture sector is suffering badly for short of 20 to 25 maf water. Excessive pumping from the under ground is causing the sub soil water level to fall rapidly.

(a house under construction nearby had drilled for water to more than a 100 feet, this used to be 30 feet)

The news item informs that Sardar Arif Rashid; Amna Ulfat MPA; Sajida Riaz – Speaker Distrct Kasur; Engineer Khurshid Anwer’; Engineer Mazhar Ali; Ashraf Ijaz Gil – PPP leader; Industrialist Suhail Lashari and Mian Tariq Aziz also spoke.

Footnote: my notes for the speech are reproduced below, but due to paucity of time, only about a third of the salient points could be touched upon).


We are our worst enemy.

Through our ignorance we have politicized Kalabagh dam and earlier had done the same with the Indus Water Treaty.

We keep saying Ayub Khan and Punjab sold our rivers. When in fact Liaquat Ali Khan was the prime minister

India stopped water in our canals in September 1947 at the time of wheat sowing. The Quaid sent a delegation to India which with great difficulty got India to reopen the canals against heavy payment.

India’s intentions were very clear. It wanted to provoke Pakistan to go for war and for India to undo partition, their avowed aim the time.

Could Pakistan have gone to war in 1947 with India withholding its share of State Bank funds, also its share of military hardware.

The water was again stopped on Apr 01, 1948. Thereafter water was released again on payment under the Inter Dominion Accord of 1948, pending further negotiations.

When all negotiations failed, both parties went to the World Bank in 1954. India laid down a precondition that World Bank would not be a mediator but only a facilitator. Talks were held in Washington from 1955 to 1957. 

World Bank proposed that Ravi, Sutlej and Beas be given to India and dams and canals on the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab would make up the loss of water to Pakistan.

Pakistan did not agree and insisted on a share in the eastern rivers.

Ayub Khan saw that the stalemate could not go on for ever with Pakistan buying water for its ever increasing needs. He saw no hope for a better agreement because of the collusion between India and the World Bank.

No agreement with India has ever been to our satisfaction. Neither the partition of the sub continent, nor the division of Punjab.

India, through better diplomacy, always joins hands with the power brokers to outsmart Pakistan.

On partition it was the Nehru-Mountbatten collusion.

On divison of Punjab it was the Nehru-Mountbatten-Radcliffe collusion.

On the Indus Water Treaty it was the India-World Bank collusion.

No treaties or agreements are ever perfect. Instead of accepting the ground realities we keep criticising the Treaty.

The Treaty allows for mutual inspection but we did not  take timely and firm notice of the construction of Baglihar dam in 1999 because of our faulty India/Kashmir policy.

We went too late for arbitration, again because of our faulty India/Kashmir policy.

Here again India achieved diplomatic success. This is not the fault of the Treaty but our own fault.

We must realize that India has possession of our rivers, and possession is nine tenth of law.

As such the Indian hydropower stations on our rivers should not affect river flows if their reservoirs are topped up only during periods of surplus river flows.

But if the filling of the many reservoirs is started simultaneously when river flows are low, this can create serious water shortage for us.

However, the Treaty is also protecting us by stopping India from building mega dams on our rivers.

Instead of beating the drum, We should be paying attention how to get the maximum benefit from the Treaty and how to avoid any adverse fall out of the Treaty.

India on the other hand is taking full advantage of the Treaty and gaining the upper hand.

While we must engage India fully on what it is doing on our rivers, we must also see what we can do on our side to counter India’s water aggression.

We have only 30 days (India 120) contingency reserves because we are storing only 9 percent of our river waters (India 33 percent).

Water availability per person, per annum has reduced from a high of 5000 cubic meters to a low of 1100 cu m, barely above 1000 cu m which will make Pakistan water-scarce.

Pakistan is at the 26th position among Asian countries as far as water availability is concerned.

We must increase our contingency reserve to counter India’s moves on our rivers.

If we don’t build four mega dams, starting now, by 2020, we will have no surplus water at all.

But we have made dams also controversial. We say dams stop river flow and deplete the river.

When in fact Mangla dam was built to make up for the water lost to India.

Canal supplies increased from the pre-Mangla 83 million acre feet to 103 maf post-Tarbela. Sindh got an additional 6 maf.

Kalabagh dam will add another 6 maf to canal supplies of which Sindh will get 2.2 maf.

The flow in the Indus will increase and not decrease because of Kalabagh dam.

The canals at Kalabagh dam will take only the surplus flood water stored in the reservoir and not from the river.

It is at the barrages which have no storage, that canals take water directly from the river.

There are thirteen big canals at Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages which deplete the Indus river.

To counter the fear that Punjab would deprive Sindh of its due share in Kalabagh dam because of its location was dealt with under the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991.

River water distribution was taken away from Wapda and entrusted to a new federal body IRSA.

Provinces can only raise ten day indents for their water requirement to IRSA.

Punjab has no direct control over supplies to its canals.

A monitoring team of engineers from the Sindh irrigation department was deputed on major head works of Punjab.

They are in daily communication with their head office and have not reported any water misappropriation to date.

The canals at Kalabagh dam will also come under their jurisdiction.

Without the left bank canal at Kalabagh dam, north Punjab will not get any water from the Indus from any future dam.

With Mangla dam silting up progressively, two thirds of north Punjab will revert from irrigated to barani.

Resulting in 50 percent loss in national food production.

Under the Accord, Sindh’s share was increased by decreasing Punjab’s share despite the vast difference in area under cultivation and the population.

Both will get 37 percent of the 6 maf water stored at Kalabagh dam.

Sindh will get all these benefits without the displacement of even one person and the loss of even one care of land.

Similarly the apprehensions of NWFP are not based on facts

Nowshera will be 25 feet above and 10 miles away from the Kalabagh dam reservoir.

The Kalabagh dam reservoir even at maximum storage capacity will remain below the Attock bridge, hence will not create back flow in the Kabul river, nor will deposit any silt there.

The drainage from the Mardan Scarp and from the Peshawar valley will remain unaffected.

The high water level marks on buildings of Nowshera were as a result of a faulty foreign consultants report. A later three-dimensional hydraulic model by Irrigation Research Institute at Nandipur set the record straight.

The right bank canal at Kalabagh dam will provide the only link between the Indus and NWFP. Otherwise NWFP will not get any water from any future dam on the Indus.

More people will be displaced in Punjab than in NWFP. Also more land will be lost in Punjab.

This has to be equated with the crores of people who will benefit from the power and water from the dam.

Also with the millions of acres that will come under cultivation.

Small dams are no substitute for mega dams. They only serve the locality in which they are built.

Conservation of water and better irrigation techniques are a must. Brick lining of canals will definitely save water  but will not store it for later use. 

Lining of canals will be counter productive in Punjab which gets of 40 percent of its irrigation supplies from the ground water.

The ground water also acts as a reservoir from which water can be pumped out during the lean periods.

For this reason Sindh needs Kalabagh dam more than Punjab.

Similarly the reservoirs at Mangla and Tarbela store water during the surplus Kharif period and make it available during the lean Rabi period.

Bhasha dam will take at least 15 years (Kalabagh dam 6 years) by which time the capacity for storage and generation at Mangla and Tarbela dams will have reduced considerably.

Bhasha dam will rely totally on snow melt from the glaciers.

Kalabagh dam will have five big rivers flowing into it – Kabul, Swat, Chitral, Haro and Sohan. Also a major part of the 30 maf monsoon flows.

100,000 cusecs water is flowing in the Indus past the Kalabagh dam site without being utilized for storage or generation.

Making Indus the only river having surplus flows.

With the loss of three rivers to India, now the whole country has to subsist on the three remaining rivers

Link canals are apart of the Replacement Plan of the Indus Water Treaty for transferring water from the western rivers to the canals previously serviced by the eastern rivers.

Chashma-Jhelum link can is feeding the canals in upper south Punjab, and the Taunsa-Panjnad link canal is feeding the canals in lower south Punjab,

Without these link canal the whole of south Punjab will turn barani causing loss of production and loss of jobs.

Since the flow in the Indus will increase because of Kalabagh dam, it will have no adverse effect on the Indus delta.

At present about 20 maf is flowing below Kotri every year, but only during the three monsoon months. There is very little or no flow during the remaining nine months, causing all the damage.

The latest foreign consultant’s study has determined 4.32 maf per annum to be sufficient to check sea incursion.

The problem is how to distribute this amount in monthly doses of 0.36 maf for year round protection of the delta.

This can only be done by storing the requisite amount in dams and then releasing the required dose every month.

Not building dams will not help the situation at the delta but will make it much worse.

Only more dams can help to reverse the unacceptable thermal to hydel ration from 70:30 to 30:70.

A ratio of 70:30 is unheard of in any country having rivers.

A mega dam pays back its construction cost in 5 years and then pays back the same amount every year.

Chairman Wapda has said that Bhasha dam will pay back its construction cost in 5 years (same will apply to Kalabagh dam)

He also said that Tarbela dam is paying back its full construction cost every year, and Mangla dam three times its full construction cost every year.

Tarbela dam is generating power at 75 paisa per unit, and Mangla dam at half that cost.

The argument is that there is not enough water in the river system to justify a third mega dam (yet Bhasha dam is being built).

The above argument is not correct. By the time Kalabagh dam comes on stream in six years time, Mangla and Tarbela will have lost capacity equal to Kalabagh dam.

Kalabagh dam will store only the water no longer being stored at Mangla and Tarbela dams. There will be no requirement for any water additional to what already is in the river system.

Alternate means of energy – oil, gas, coal, wind, solar will give us electricity but not water.

A people can live without electricity but not without food.

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