The World Bank did not think it was encroaching on Sindh’s Indus by proposing a dam on the Indus, the only river having surplus flows from the many tributaries flowing into it. Tarbela dam as a part of the ‘Indus Basin Replacement Works’ was the key to the ‘Replacement Plan’ of World Bank. The dam would store surplus flood water, available for 70 days from end June to early September, there being no demand for this water because of the wet weather, it was flowing down to the sea, even the delta did not need so much water over such a short period, it needs a smaller but regular amount spread over the whole year.

Water was thus made available to make up the losses incurred by the canals in north and south Punjab. No canal in Sindh had lost any water which needed replacement. Chashma and Taunsa were the ‘Replacement Works’ for diverting the surplus flood water from Tarbela dam to the CJ and TP link canals to feed the canals in upper and lower south Punjab to irrigate 45 lakh acres.

A left bank canal at Kalabagh dam was to replenish the canals in north Punjab, deprived of the waters of the Ravi. World Bank could not have proposed ceding Ravi and Sutlej rivers to India without having a ‘Replacement Plan’ and the required ‘Replacement Works’ in place.

Sindh, most unreasonably, treats the water stored in Tarbela dam as Sindh’s water, because it claims Indus to be Sindh’s river. By that reasoning Sindh accuses Punjab of stealing Sindh’s water through CJ and TP link canals, which are irrigating 45 lakh acres in south Punjab. It also says that Punjab will steal Sindh’s water from the left bank canal at Kalabagh dam.

Without the left bank canal at Kalabagh dam, north Punjab cannot draw on the water stored at Tarbela dam, and by default Sindh is getting 70% of the stored water. This could never have been the intention of the Treaty.

Without this canal north Punjab will also not get water from any future dam on the Indus, the bread basket of the country will have to subsist on the two smaller rivers, Jhelum and Chenab. Without water from the Indus two thirds of north Punjab will gradually revert from irrigated to rain-fed, with a 50% loss in food production.

Sindh’s argument that since it was not made a party to the formulation of the Treaty it does not have to abide by it, while this argument has merit it does not help the water and power situation in the country, by stopping all dam building activity for 40 years, plus 15 years if we wait for Bhasha dam, the people of Sindh are suffering as much as the people of Punjab.

Revisiting the Water Apportionment Award of 1991 can be the starting point in breaking the log jam. The recently resigned chairman Wapda has provided excellent reference material in his 28 columns and we must make use of it.


Lahore, October 9.