ISLAMABAD - Chairman Water and Power Development Authority Lt-Gen (r) Muzamil Hussain on Wednesday said that Kalabagh Dam should be built with consensus of all political parties, proposing to hand over operational control of the controversial project to Sindh province to address its reservations over the use of water.

“The reservations of Sindh province regarding Kalabagh Dam are justified while that of KP are technically unjustified and stood addressed,” Chairman WAPDA Lt-Gen (r) Muzamil Hussain said this while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Water here.

The meeting was held with Senator Shamim Afridi in chair and was attended among others by Senators Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Syed Sabir Shah, Qurratul Ain Marri, Agha Shahzeb Durrani, Gianchand, Syed Shibli Faraz, Chairman IRSA Ahmed Jamal, Members IRSA from all provinces and other officials.

The chairman Wapda said that Kalabagh Dam is the most technically viable project and political consensus required to build the mega dams. He said that unless big water reservoirs are built water cannot go downstream the Kotri and to overcome the water shortage.

“We have to remove the institutional inefficiencies, make big reservoirs, make Indus Water Treaty part of our foreign policy, conserve water, reduce losses, fixing water price and avoid sowing water consuming crops,” he added.

“Without developing political consensus among the provinces, we would not initiate work on the Kalabagh Dam, however if consensus was developed the then the dam must be built,” he said.

Terming the reservations of Sindh province regarding Kalabagh Dam justified, the chairman Wapda proposed that operational and maintenance control of the dam should be handed over to Sindh if the dam is built in future. Sindh had reservations that Punjab would use its water from Kalabagh Dam. The flooding reservation of KP was resolved by lowering the height of the dam by 10 feet while the construction of Mohammand Dam will fully resolve the flooding issue, he added. He said the other reservations of KP were technically wrong.

While objecting to Kalabagh Dam, Senator Gian Chand said that there was no political consensus on building Kalabagh Dam and therefore no discussion should be held on this subject. Senator Quratulain Marri said that Council of Common Interests (CCI) did not reach consensus on building the KBD and therefore the project was abandoned. Senator Sabir Shah said that facts regarding Kalabagh Dam should be revealed to the people.

Regarding Bhasha Dam, he said the G-B and KP were not cooperating and despite the land acquisition they were unable to start work in the region.

He said that there were difficulties in initiation of work on Diamer-Bhasha Dam, as the land was distributed between Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the owners of the land were creating problems.

“As we start work on the project, the people do fire at us due to which a dozen people have been killed till now. So far Rs80 billion has been spent on this project.” He said the plan for relocating the people was wrong which was made in 2006. We have given proposals for rehabilitation of people but so far it has not been accepted. The committee was informed that any country that has 1000 cubic meter water available per capita is categorised in water-scarce countries and per capita water availability in Pakistan at present is 903 cubic meters. This average per capita water availability was around 5,000 cubic meters back in 1951.

The committee was told that out of 35,409 million acre feet (MAF) reservoirs in the whole world, 1,577 MAF are in South Asia and only 145 MAF in Pakistan. The chairman WAPDA in his briefing said, “25-35 per cent of our water comes from rains and 65-75 per cent from glaciers in the northern parts. 60 per cent of our population is directly engaged in agriculture and livestock and despite being included in 15 most water scarce countries, Pakistan has one of the most water intensive agriculture with fourth highest use of water rate.”

He said that 90 per cent of the country’s water is used in agriculture and the need of the hour is to take this matter up in the Council of Common Interests as to how overuse of water in irrigation can be reduced and use the same for domestic needs. He proposed that cultivation of sugarcane must be discouraged for being most water consuming crop. Various bigwigs have sugar mills but this crop cultivation should be reduced being more water consuming, he added.

The Wapda chairman, giving an analysis of water reservoirs, told the meeting that Pakistan had a total of 155 dams against 5102 dams in India and carry over capacity of Pakistan is just 30 days against 170 days’ capacity of India. He remarked that Pakistan needed to narrow the huge gap between the growing population and its needs and the number and capacity of water reservoirs.

Talking about the Indus Cascade, he termed it the most precious asset for the country. He said that the Indus enters Pakistan at an altitude of 8430 feet and gives us a drop of 7030 feet till Kalabagh at an altitude of 1400 feet giving us multiple sites along the stretch for building reservoirs and run of the river projects.

The Wapda chairman said that in Pakistan around 50 per cent irrigation water gets wasted while in Punjab province the telemetry system has been broken and same was the case in Sindh. He said that including Tarbela and Mangla, water storage capacity of all dams have reduced. The capacity of Tarbella has reduced by 30 per cent, he added. For increasing water storage, we need to build more dams. He also mentioned that there were 0.96 million tube wells due to which the water table had gone much down.

He said water flow into Tarbela Dam was 50 per cent less two days back but now due to snow melting on mountains in northern region, the water flow has improved. He said that due to silting, water storage capacity in Tarbela Dam had been reduced by 30 percent.

Muzamil said that water availability had reduced while the consumption was increasing. “We are supplying water to Kachi Canal but the Balochistan province has not made irrigation and water distribution system.”

Due to contention between Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Board (PEDO) and federally run, Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO), Chitral was not getting the required power supply and it was getting only seven megawatts of electricity. 

Regarding illegal appointments in Nespak, the chairman Wapda said around 921 politically-motivated appointments were made in Nespak in violation of merit which destroyed the engineering consulting firm. Due to political appointments, the Nespak has been losing its significance. “We are facing the shortage of consultants, so we have to take the services of consultants from outside the country and organisations,” he maintained.

The Wapda chairman said that Indus Water Treaty (IWT) had some weak points and efforts were required to improve it. He said that government should adopt an aggressive policy on Indus Water Treaty and said that this treaty should be made part of Pakistan’s foreign policy. He said that situation of Indus Water Commission was very poor and urged the government to take initiatives to bring improvement in it.

The committee was given an account of the projects under process by Wapda which included Kachi Canal (PH-1) commissioned in September 2017, NaiGaj Dam to be completed by June 2019, Muzaffargarh & TP Link Canal to be completed by June 2019 and RBOD-I and III to be completed by November 2019. RBOD-II is to be worked upon by Sindh government and not Wapda.

The committee was given details of short term, medium term and long term water reservoirs and run of the river hydropower projects to meet futuristic needs of the country. These include reservoirs and hydropower projects in NaiGaj, Naulong, Bara, Tank Zam, Diamer Basha, Mohmand, Kurram Tangi II, Chiniot, Shyok, Dhudhnial, Skardu, Akhori, Rohtas and other small and big dams.

The Wapda chairman said that water was being provided in Kachi Canal but the provincial government of Balochistan had not formulated irrigation system and water distribution plan.

The chairman and members of the committee assured Wapda and Irsa of all-out support in this connection. During the meeting, Balochistan alleged Sindh for not providing its share of water. The Irsa Balochistan members said that for stealing water there are 60 illegal water connections on Pat Feeder Canal.

However, the official of Sindh irrigation department said that they had water level issue at Guddu and due to low water in river, water could not get through the Pat Feeder Canal. Besides, there was law and order issue in the area and if Sindh irrigation department is taking any action then they are being hit with rockets. He proposed that Rangers should be deputed in the area to control the situation.