Why are the nation’s hydro endowment and related national assets suffering attrition and neglect? Probably, because of India’s water war that is no longer surreptitious; it is blatant. It is now a cold-blooded campaign. Its interference in Pakistan’s affairs has created an anti-dam lobby in three smaller provinces and their opposition to the construction of a second reservoir on the Indus after the commissioning of Tarbela Dam (1974) has been suicidal for the state’s economy. Punjab, the country’s breadbasket, has seen its agricultural output stagnate. Additionally, due to Pakistan’s rising population, the per capita agricultural output has fallen in real terms. Poverty and its resulting tensions within the federation have multiplied. India’s internal factor (in Pakistan) and external activities (in IHK) till 2010 inflicted a financial loss of over a $1 trillion that is basically equivalent to our economy. Potentially, the richest nation of South Asia is now a basket case. Due to its failure to build multi-purpose dams after 1974, the desired hydel-thermal ratio has become lopsided - around 30:70; imported oil based power generation has become unsustainable; financial deficit has climbed above $10 billion; and national debt servicing greater.

Meanwhile, India goes ahead with its plans to build over 100 hydro-electric projects on Pakistan’s waters flowing through IHK, i.e. the three western rivers - Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. It uses a benign concession in the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) to justify building dozens of high dams and creating reservoirs in cascade. It further justifies its claim on these waters by reasoning that Pakistan’s anti-dam lobby compels it to waste.

For years, Pakistan had been facing the unexplainable phenomenon of drastically shrinking inflows. It emerged that the hydro-based infrastructures being constructed by India in IHK permitted it absolute control of the surface flows and the capability to divert the occupied valleys waters, into the northern Indian basin. India is building the world’s largest single irrigation project using a network of canals between the Indian Punjab and Indian Bengal. It is, indeed, a blueprint for history’s greatest genocide; an economic suffocation orchestrated by India.

Anyway, India through nefarious tactics was allocated the entire flow of the eastern rivers. Pakistan lost 26MAF of its rightful water flows. Today, Pakistan’s second largest city, Lahore, is sinking in its sewage; its life-sustaining River Ravi is a sewer; and its deep water pumps throw up arsenic and nitrates far beyond safe limits. The irrigation situation in South Punjab, too, is critical. The anti-dam lobby has ensured that the decrease in Pakistan’s storage capacity is about eight percent of its annual surface flows of 145MAF. More so, clean drinking water has become scarce. Yet, the Indians project themselves as the aggrieved party.

In addition, the 2010 floods delivered another precious 56MAF into the sea, which demonstrated the need to build mega dams. Hence, without reservoirs, water became a force of fatal destruction; beside, the tragic mistakes orchestrated by our regional adversary and the fifth column within the republic.

In 2008 and 2009, Chairman WAPDA, a non-technical bureaucrat, advised the Federal Minister to announce the official closure of Kalabagh Dam (KBD) project. The question here is: Doesn’t a decision made in national interest require “consensus”, especially for its sweet water supplies? Water is life and only an enemy will disagree. Moreover, reservoirs are the low-cost hydroelectric resources.

Proposed KBD and future floods: On February 9, 1998, a premier conference on water reservoirs was held at Islamabad. A resolution was unanimously passed for the construction of at least one reservoir on the Indus without further loss of time. It was also agreed that after Tarbela, a new reservoir should have been constructed and made functional by 1990. But after 14 years (2012), the situation is critical. In financial terms, a staggering waste of around $230 billion equivalent between 1990 and 2010 has occurred due to the non-availability of a second reservoir on the Indus that is capable of +6MAF storage: A reservoir that could have compensated for the depletion of reservoirs since the commissioning of Warsak, Mangla, Tarbela and Chashma and could have kept our economic growth far ahead of our population increase. Only the KBD met the criteria for a quick and cheap replacement reservoir to offset the storage capacity lost. The floods of July/August 2010 have shown that it would have complemented Tarbela Dam’s intrinsic flood attenuation and mitigation capabilities. The construction of proposed Munda Storage Project on River Swat would also have been helpful for flood control. The 1.2MAF storage at Munda is capable of providing around 1.5 billion units/year. The Munda-KBD conjunctive operation presents a wonderful opportunity for interprovincial cooperation. The energy output of KBD could increase by around 250GWh (0.25 billion units) at average head of 200ft due to Munda Dam.

Diamer Basha Dam: An attempt to build the world’s highest RCC dam in the region of severe seismic history is playing with fire and inviting serious trouble.

India’s Northern Canal Project: We must ask ourselves what this plus $200 billion project means for the future of our children. The Indians are now guilty of laying the groundwork for the genocide of our nation through the ongoing theft of Pakistan waters. India is in the process of planning and constructing 171 hydroelectric power projects (HPP) in IHK. At least 42 projects on the western rivers and their tributaries are already in operation. The proposed Kishenganga HPP project is in blatant violation of the IWT. It includes the transfer of Neelum waters into Jhelum and is a violation of the treaty’s Annexure D para 15c (iii) and Annexure E para 10.

Neelum is a tributary of Jhelum. The completion of Pakistan’s Neelum-Jhelum HPP will mean that India cannot operate its Kishenganga HPP (even if constructed), as Pakistan has the right to uninterrupted use of western rivers. Any other interpretation is diabolical. There should, however, be no race between the two countries. India has to respect Pakistan’s exclusive rights to the western rivers. If the Indians do not plan to divert Pak waters from IHK into Punjab, then let them open the entire valley to inspection by the United Nations or World Bank experts.

n    The writer is an engineer and convenor of the Water Resource Development Council (WRDC) WRDC.