Pakistan Water Crisis Management

Please see my letters in the daily ‘News’ from May 04 to May 24. The ones from April 11 to May 02 had been sent earlier. These are being sent to disseminate information on the subject – Khurshid Anwer

The left bank canal     May 24
Even supporters of Kalabagh dam are heard saying that if Sindh objects to any canals at Kalabagh dam then let us not have them. If Sindh gets its ‘increased’ share of 37 per cent (by reducing Punjab’s share) of the water stored in the dam, then why should it object if Punjab takes its ‘reduced’ share through the left bank canal? Not to do so would be against the Indus Water Treaty which ceded three rivers to India on the condition that the waters of the western rivers would be available to the areas previously irrigated by the eastern rivers i.e. north and south Punjab.
Could the intent of the Indus Water Treaty have been that henceforth the affected areas of the country would have to manage without the waters of the eastern and the western rivers? I don’t think so


Royalty from dams           May 21
The royalty from dams was meant to be dedicated to the upkeep of the vast
Indus basin infrastructure consisting of dams, barrages, link canals etc. In his efforts to get unanimity on the 1973 Constitution, Bhutto offered royalty from Tarbela dam to Wali Khan. This set up a very bad precedent creating all kinds of disputes on building of dams.
More importantly, the diversion of funds from their real purpose is resulting in neglect of the fast-deteriorating irrigation infrastructure, the biggest in the world at one time.


Indus Water Treaty         May 16       
This is in continuation of my letter on the Indus Water Treaty (May 11). The framers of the treaty saw Pakistan as one country where if some areas of it were deprived of the waters of Ravi and Sutlej, the waters of the Indus from another area would be readily available to make up the loss through the left-bank and the link-canals.
They did not see Pakistan as Sindh and Punjab where when Punjab is deprived of water Sindh would refuse to cooperate with a dam which would integrate the three available rivers into a One Single River Basin for the whole country.


The Indus Delta            May 15            
There are those who say 30 million-acre-feet must flow below Kotri barrage when the total water available to the whole country is 104 MAF. Also what purpose will it serve if this water flows down only during the three flood months? How will sea incursion be checked during the remaining nine months? The delta does not need large quantities; it needs a small steady flow over the whole year. The latest foreign consultants’ study has determined 4.32 MAF per annum or 0.36 MAF per month as sufficient to check sea incursion.
This amount needs to be stored in dams and a regular monthly dose released for year-round protection of the Indus delta. Not building more dams will only speed up the degradation of the Indus delta. Let us put on our thinking caps and stop talking like illiterates.


Mega dams          May 12
Every time a mega dam is mentioned in the press it is said that it will take decades to build. Let us see for how many decades we have been saying this. If Kalabagh dam had started on time it would have been commissioned in 1992. If Musharraf had succeeded it would have been commissioned in 2009. And Bhasha dam would have been on its way to completion. But if we keep saying this then Kalabagh dam will never be built, while Mangla and Tarbela reservoirs will turn into silt lakes. The WAPDA chairman has said that a mega dam takes five years to build and thereafter pays back its full construction cost every year. According to him Tarbela dam is already doing so while Mangla dam is paying back three times its cost every year.
After the construction cost has been paid back, hydel power is almost free. Also the slow-moving water turbines do not require maintenance for many decades. Compare that with the generation and maintenance costs of the RPPs. Plus the dangers of global warming and rapid depletion of glaciers — a real doomsday scenario.


Indus Water Treaty May 11
The Indus Water Treaty was a balancing act. Three eastern rivers – Ravi, Sutlej, Beas — for India and three western rivers – the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab — for Pakistan, subject to transfer of water from the western rivers, by means of dams and barrages, to the command areas of the eastern rivers i.e. north Punjab under the command area of Ravi, also Chenab and Jhelum to a lesser extent, and south Punjab under the command area of Ravi and Sutlej. On the western rivers only one dam could be built in Pakistan on Jhelum River and the remaining on the Indus. Kalabagh dam being the only one which could enable integration of the Indus-Jhelum-Chenab rivers into one single river basin for optimum use through a left bank outlet.
Now if we start disputing the left bank canal at Kalabagh dam for north Punjab and the link canals at Chashma and Taunsa barrages for south Punjab, then we are upsetting the very balance of the treaty, thereby denying north and south Punjab access to the eastern as well as the western rivers. Punjab is the bread basket of the whole country. With large areas of north and south Punjab reverting from irrigated to barani, 50 per cent of national food production will be lost leading to food inflation and adding to poverty.


Why not Kalabagh?   May 09

The minister for water and power has said that the government cannot build Kalabagh dam. He did not say why. A minister must never talk in thin air, he must have cogent reasons for what he says. Does he think that Punjab will take more water from Kalabagh dam because the dam is located in Punjab? Does Azad Jammu and Kashmir take more water from Mangla dam? Does Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa take more power from Tarbela dam? Is not the distribution of river water and power centralised? Does he think that the flow in the Indus will decrease because of Kalabagh dam? Did flow in Jhelum decrease because of Mangla dam (which gave Pakistan back the waters lost to India)? Did flow in the Indus decrease because of Tarbela dam (which increased all canal supplies by 25 per cent)?
Wasn’t Sindh’s share in all future dams increased by reducing Punjab’s share? Won’t Kalabagh dam give Sindh 37 per cent or 2.2 million-acre-feet of water additional to what it is getting now? A quantity which Sindh has no other means of getting from anywhere. If none of the above reasons, then the PPP government must be bound to follow the vision of its leader, Benazir Bhutto, who thought that the IPPs were the solution to our power problems for all times to come.


No dams, no storage May 07

Those who are against building Kalabagh dam and even Bhasha dam do not realise that if fresh storage does not replace dead storage, we will revert to the pre-Mangla and -Tarbela dam situation. The Indus and Jhelum River will provide only wet and dry periods of three and nine months, respectively. There will be no transfer from wet period to dry period, hence no Rabi sowing.
There will be no reserve for any, natural or manmade, contingency. The per-capita, per-annum availability of water will decline precipitously. There will never be any flow below Kotri for nine months.


Hydropower        May 06

A reader in these columns recently stated that Pakistan was blessed with abundant natural resources and an ideal geography for generation of hydropower and wind power. But then he talked only of potential sites for wind power and thermal power from Thar coal and waste material. Depending on the type, coal produces 2,791 to 5,685 pounds of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) per ton. On the recent Earth Hour we were warned about the potential damage from greenhouse gases to the life of glaciers, our main source of fresh water.
Pakistan has potential for 40,000 megawatts of clean and cheap hydel power. "We need to harness the might of our rivers with the help of mega dams, these monuments to science and modern thinking will give us water for irrigation and also electricity", so said the prime minister of our neighbouring country many years ago. The results are there to see.


Power policy mix     May 04

A reader in your column has recently said that hydropower is seasonal and can be very low in the winters. He called for a mix of energy sources. This is the reason why countries do not rely on just two dams. India has 10 mega dams and is building one more on Narmada River despite strong public protest. The US has 900 dams, many of which must be mega ones. The California governor has recently said that the bill for revamping the state water system will not get his signatures unless it includes major reservoir and dam projects.
Let us not forget that dams are seasonal only because the rivers are seasonal. Rivers alone will give us only wet and dry periods. It is only through storage that transfer can be made from wet to dry periods. If fresh storage capacity does not replace the depleting storage capacity, we will end up with no storage, hence no Rabi crops.


One Response to “Pakistan Water Crisis Management”

  1. M K Sial Says:

    Kalabagh dam project is not flood-control project (design-wise) as rightly pointed out by ex-IRSA Chairman Fatehullah Gandapur in his interview with Daily Times (Aug 12, 2010) in his rejoined to PM Gilani who tried to mislead the nation on floods by claiming had KBD in place, flood devastation could have averted.

    – This is wrong thinking of PM who wants to support unduly to his province Punjab.

    – Why devastating floods are coming in USA, Asia, Europe and Africa despite having dams.

    – it is zenith of narrow-mindedness to use the natural catastrophe to serve vested interests of Punjab.

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