Terming the Kalabagh Dam a lifeline for the country’s future, the speakers at a seminar revealed that the country’s parliament, in its first budget session in presence of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had approved the 500MW Mianwali Hydropower Project (Kalabagh Dam) in 1948 with a view to generate power through hydel production.

After the creation of Pakistan, the government under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam, focused the growth of economy based on agro industry. At that time when the country’s power generation capacity was only 60MW the first budget session approved the construction of KBD. At that time capacity was 500MW while the project name was Mianwali Hydropower project, observed Chairman Sindh Tas Water Council Pakistan Muhammad Suleman Khan. At a seminar on ‘Challenges of Pakistan Green Economy’ organized by the Institution of Engineers Pakistan Lahore Chapter, Chairman Indus Water Council claimed that the Pakistan’s parliament first budget session also approved Nara Canal for Sindh to irrigate Tharparkar through Kalabagh Dam but the unfortunate death of Qauid and Laiqat Ali Khan could not give the chance the govt to implement the project.

He stated that closure of canals water by the Indian govt in 1948 forced the Pakistan govt to divert its manpower from Mianwali Hydropower Project (KBD) to construct Ravi, Balloki and Sulemanki Link Canals immediately. The construction work was again started in era of Prime Minister ZA Bhutto which was later stopped in Zia regime due to political propaganda, he added.  He said that in 1991 during the govt of Nawaz Sharif, the CMs of four provinces unanimously agreed on Water Apportionment Accord 1991 which was later approved the Council of Common Interest but it is unfortunate that the project is shelved without any technical base.

“Critics argue that if the dam is built, it would turn Sindh into a desert, but the experts are of the opinion that the province would get additional 4.75 million acre feet of water. Punjab would receive additional 2.04 MAF, Balochistan 1.56 MAF and K-P 2.01 MAF.”

The IEP Lahore chapter president Capt (r) Khalid Sajjad, addressing the seminar, said that a general consensus could not be reached as the dam issue has been much politicised. The civil society would have to play a crucial role in creating a larger consensus as new large water reservoirs would benefit every Pakistani, he said.

Engineer Khalid Sajjad said that the Institution of Engineers Pakistan is running a campaign to pave way for the construction of Kalabagh Dam, which is a lifeline for the country’s future. The IEP is holding seminars and discussions with experts to clear any misunderstandings impeding its materialization, he added.

He said that poverty, hunger and darkness would be our fate if we don’t build dams to store water, which is depleting fast. Nation will not forgive people who are opposing Kalabagh Dam for their own interests, he said. Khalid Sajjad stated that only because of government’s silence over KBD, the country is suffering a loss of Rs132 billion annually. This amount could be saved by initiating construction of the dam. He said that another significant aspect connected with the construction is the surety of sufficient amount of electricity at a much cheaper price. “The capacity of the dam is equal to the capacity of 750 medium dams. The country’s dependence on power generated through thermal sources is costing us a lot and we face formidable challenges in both national and international markets.

The dam is not only beneficial to Punjab but would also contribute to erasing poverty from Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa. It would irrigate 800,000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100-150 feet above River Indus level in the province.