Construction of multi-purpose Kalabagh Dam is in the larger national interests of the country and the people are suffering from lingering electricity load shedding for years together in an un-ending manner. But Kalabagh Dam cannot be constructed because there is no national consensus over it.

It was quite heartening to note for a staunch supporter of the much-investigated, researched, feasibly good enough but condemned, criticized and rejected more on political grounds and vested interests, Kalabagh dam, like this scribe, that the multi-purpose Kalabagh Dam is still alive as it was mentioned at two forums within couple of days last week.

WAPDA Chairman Lt General retired Muzammil Hussain, while giving a comprehensive briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Water in Islamabad, duly stressed the importance of Kalabagh dam and went to the extent of proposing in case it is constructed to give its operations and management to Sindh to allay the province’s concerns that it will go dry, called for its construction subject to a national consensus and painting a very bleak picture said that Pakistan has a total of 155 dams (almost all except Mangla and Tarbela dams ) compared to India’s 5102 major and small dams, Pakistan can store water for 30 days due to lack of major storage facility as compared to India’s capacity of 170 days.

He said that quite categorically that without consensus among the provinces, we will not initiate work on Kalabagh dam, if all the political parties develop consensus, then Kalabagh dam must be built.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Squib Nisar while hearing a suo motu notice on the water crisis in Islamabad Thursday said that the country’s political leadership will have to forge consensus on the Kalabagh dam to ensure steady supply of water to all parts of the country throughout the year, people in power are responsible for the ongoing water crisis, the PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML(N) Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif must tell the nation how many dams they had built during their tenure for uninterrupted availability of water , water must be given respect, “ I feel like begging for charity to construct dams and pay off the nation’s debt”.

It is a matter of bitter record that Kalabagh dam construction was put off till after Tarbela dam by those at the helm of national and WAPDA affairs but no major storage facility has been developed in the country after Tarbela dam became operational in mid-1970s.

PML(N) was in favour of Kalabagh dam, Punjab has been raising voice for its construction, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif, who has since stepped into the shoes of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif after his disqualification as PML(N) chief has been calling for construction of multi-purpose dam but only after consensus among the provinces.

Mian Shehbaz Sharif is reported to have said during his tour of interior Sindh couple of months back quite obviously for wooing the voters of the voters of staunch opponents of Kalabagh dam that hundreds of such dams can be sacrificed for the people of Sindh.

Needless to say, Kalabagh dam is direly needed by the country, sooner the better. It has been planned, researched, investigated and what not for more than six decades and instead of developing and evolving national consensus, it has most unfortunately been criticised, condemned and abused all these years. For some years, Kalabagh dam was being mentioned in official documents but when the PPP government came in power for the fourth time under chairmanship of Asif Ali Zardari, it was scrapped outright by its Federal Minister for Water and Power summarily and after that it has not been mentioned in any manner in the official budget or other documents. Political leaders who have opposed it tooth and nail over the years are not ready to listen to any reason and budge an inch from their publicly stated stances and least bothered about the national interests so being sacrificed for petty vested interests.

Multi-purpose Kalabagh dam, if and when constructed, can produce 2400 to 3600 megawatt of power and store more than seven million acres feet of water for three years for agriculture use. It is great misfortune of the country and the nation that four decades have elapsed after the construction of Tarbela Dam and no other major storage facility has been developed in the country unmindful of great sufferings by the people of all provinces. The provinces which are obstructing evolving of the national consensus in this regard are just giving deaf ears to the experts views that Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah and Balochistan all will be getting additional water in substantial quantity for agricultural purposes if the dam is constructed.

With national consensus remaining ever elusive and national interests being sacrifices at the altar of vested petty, regional interests instead of being safeguarded, protected and promoted, no matter what the cost , without construction of Kalabagh Dam the water scarcity will continue mounting and electricity load-shedding persisting and in decades time, we will be fighting among ourselves for one drop of water to quench our thirst what to talk about having enough water for agricultural purposes.

Are we ready to commit suicide en masse as a nation when nothing positive happens and negative things continue to take precedence over everything else and the experts have started sounding warnings that acute drought like situation can arise in Pakistan as early as 2025 ?

A beginning has to be made even after more than 70 years of our life as an independent and free country, priorities have to be re- set and steps taken in the right direction in pursuance of the supreme national interests now before it is too late. Already we have wasted much time groping in the dark like rudderless ship. But time keeps ticking past and waits for none.


The writer is Lahore-based free-lance journalist , columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan.