Last month Pakistan signed a Rs442 billion contract with China for construction of the Diamer Bhasha dam. Followed up by objection raised by New Delhi over the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam. China upright rejected the objection calling it a joint venture of “two all-weather friends and strategic cooperative partners”. This objection was concerning for Pakistan but the thing which is more concerning is the Anti-dam trend on social media in Pakistan. Warlike situation is already building up along the LOC between India and Pakistan.
India on several occasions had threatened to stop the flow of river waters into Pakistan. Both Indus and Chenab river flow through Indian administered Kashmir before they flow into Pakistan. India by violating the Indus Water Treaty is planning to launch multiple hydropower projects on these two rivers. Along with that India is now planning to build multiple dams on UJH River a tributary of Ravi river in-order to stop 2 TMC of water. As per the IWT India is bound not to restrict or divert the flow of water on the Eastern Rivers (the Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi). Despite requests from Pakistan World Bank failed to play its role regarding the legality of hydro power projects.
It is alarming that the situation is getting tense with India constantly threatening to wage water-war on Pakistan. Many experts have already predicted about a future war between India and Pakistan on Water. Having said that in Both countries’ dams are inter-national issues as well. But Before coming toward the point why Diamer Bhasha dam is need of time. Let’s talk about this Anti-Dam campaign. This is not something new we witness similar sorts of campaigns regarding all other dams as well. But if you closely monitor the trend you will find that it was being organized from Interior Sindh by different nationalist parties. But the fact of the matter is that; Even though this project was initiated during President Musharraf reign but was officially approved by the Council of Common Interest (CCI) in July 2010, as an alternative for Kalabagh dam; on which some provinces had reservations.
So basically, it was the government of PPP, which is among one of the most popular parties of Sindh which started the construction of the Diamer Bhasha dam. Even if we consider this as a natural and legitimate concern, I do not think that a group of Sindhi nationalists are more legitimate than the party which is representing the people of Sindh for the last 15-20 years. Now let’s talk about why this dam is need of the time.
According to a study by The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) “Water storage in Pakistan is reaching alarming level, as per the study, the country will approach absolute water scarcity by 2025”. This is alarming but obvious as well, With the rapid urbanization, population growth and climate change a country having the fourth highest water consumption in the world could end up like this. Similarly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a similar reporting ranking Pakistan third on the list of countries facing the water shortage crisis.
Pakistan’s water storage capacity is just for 30 days while India can store water for 190 days and America has a storage capacity of 900 days. Tarbela and Mangla dams have lost over 5 MAF water storage capacities because of sedimentation. Diamer-Bhasha Dam construction is need of the time as it would add gross 8 MAF to Pakistan’s water reservoir capacity, which is essential for Pakistan’s agriculture.
Eventually increasing the lifetime of Tarbela Dam about 35 years. Pakistan need not one but several dams not only to overcome the water crisis but also because the country is burning fossils for energy. Independently, Diamer-Basha Dam will add 4500 MW to the country’s present 6500 MW, of which almost 70% comes from Tarbela and Mangla Dam.
Apart from that Pakistan is an Agricultural country and the irrigation system is in a very bad condition. It requires rapid up-gradation and mobilization as well. Large dams produce energy, electricity, increase the water storage capacity, play a vital part in containing floods, help in organizing canal systems, get more investors, and are effective in the longer run. Apart from that you build dams upstream in the mountains, you cannot build dams in deserts and plains.
Common people cannot understand these technicalities, that’s why some elements twist these issues for political gains. Pakistan is working on different small projects as well. Apart from that this idea of following Europe and the US is not effective when addressing the local problems; one needs local solutions that are compatible with the local socio-political, economic environment.
Despite the high cost about which many people are complaining, many experts have said that as per different estimates just by the revenues in terms of electricity and agriculture the cost of the dam will be recovered within a decade. This is the time the Government must come forward and deal with this sort of organized propaganda against the interests of the State.