Thursday brought good tidings for all those who wish for the prosperity and benefit all citizens, irrespective of where they live or to which province they belong. On that day, the Lahore High Court ordered the federal government to build the Kalabagh Dam in compliance with the decisions of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) taken in 1991 and 1998. It should be recalled that the first decision taken in September 1991 had accorded approval to the project’s construction, while the second of May 1998, a follow-up, directed the Natural Water Resources Development Programme, headed by the Minister for Water and Power, to prepare a document to bring home to the detractors the issues involved in building the dam and address their political and technical concerns. The latter decision also called upon the Water and Power Authority to update the technical studies of the dam and prepare supplementary projects in support of the KBD.

Underlining the fact that there was no escape from compliance with the CCI’s decisions, the court drew the attention of the federal government to article 154 of the constitution that confers upon the CCI “a pre-eminent position.....to formulate and regulate policies of the federation in relation to a number of subjects, including water and power”. Its decisions have a binding force and have to be implemented in letter and in spirit, the court ruled, unless they are modified by Parliament at the instance of the government. LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial took the stand that the scarcity of both water and power had adversely affected the quality and security of life of the citizens and that was a violation of their fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. Hence, the decision to remedy the situation. The court ruled that the government should take bona fide steps in this regard so that the fate of the project was not sealed, adding that the material presented before it proved that it was “admittedly feasible both technically and economically”.

We have, in these columns, detailed, time and again, the immense benefits that the KBD holds for the nation as a whole. And now that an impartial authority has also pronounced in favour of it, one should expect the federal government not to waste any more time and go ahead with following the CCI’s decisions. The project would provide massive relief to the people who daily suffer from loadshedding as it has the capacity to generate power up to 3,600MW. Similarly, it would make available over six million acre feet of water to be utilised to bring additional land under cultivation; the biggest beneficiary would be Sindh, followed by KPK and Balochistan, and the least to benefit would be Punjab. The water absorbed in the KBD reservoir would also mitigate the impact of floods, in large areas even precluding its occurrence. Hopefully, irrational sentiments built up over the years against this project would give way to saner counsels and work on its construction would begin soon.