By: Zeeshan Rustam
The vision of Quaid-e-Azam was to build Kalabagh Dam (Mianwali Hydro Project) and Nara Canal to meet energy requirements through cheap electricity and provide water to the desert of Thar. The country’s parliament, in its first budget session in presence of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had approved the 500MW Mianwali Hydropower Project (Kalabagh Dam) in 1948 with a view to generating power through hydel production.
After the creation of Pakistan, the government under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam focused on the growth of the economy based on agro-industry. At that time when the country’s power generation capacity was only 60MW the first budget session approved the construction of KBD,” observed Chairman Sindh Tas Water Council Pakistan Muhammad Suleiman Khan at a seminar organized by the Institution of Engineers Pakistan. Kalabagh Dam is among the proposed dams in Pakistan since 1987.I f Pakistan dumps as much as about 21$ billion worth of water into the Arabian Sea every year because we do not have sufficient water conservation systems.This amounts to more than half of the total water the country receives in a year. According to the experts, the problem is that our current dam storage facility can only store a total of 30 days of water. Opposition to the construction of Kalabagh dam is to such an extent that the Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah have adopted resolutions against it. According to the report, the annual electricity generated at Kalabagh Dam would be equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil otherwise needed to produce costly thermal power. This annual import of fuel would require augmentation of transportation infrastructure. It is the additional burden of billions of U.S dollars per annum to the economy. Chairman of IRSA Engr. Raqib Khan has written an official letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Water & Power, and Government of Pakistan for the water crises in the country. He wrote “IRSA strongly recommended the construction of new water storages of at least 22 MAF capacity on all the feasible sites on war footing basis as agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy (it is a point to note that the capacity of Kalabagh Dam is the only 6.1Maf). “Critics argue that if the dam is built, it would turn Sindh into a desert, but the experts are of the opinion that the province would get an additional 4.75 million acre-feet of water. Punjab would receive an additional 2.04 MAF, Baluchistan 1.56 MAF, and K-P 2.01 MAF.” Khalid Sajjad stated that only because of the government’s silence over KBD, the country is suffering a loss of Rs132 billion annually. This amount could be saved by initiating the construction of the dam. He said that another significant aspect connected with the construction is the surety of a sufficient amount of electricity at a much cheaper price. “The capacity of the dam is equal to the capacity of 750 medium dams. The country’s dependence on power generated through thermal sources is costing us a lot and we face formidable challenges in both national and international markets.
The reporter is the student of Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.