The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Standing Committee on KBD, anticipating a water crisis in the wake of extreme weather conditions, has asked the government to freeze the country’s entire development programme for five years and divert funds for construction of major water reservoirs, including KBD, on war footing as a national priority.

Quoting the report of Indus River System Authority (IRSA), LCCI Standing Committee Chairman Abdul Basit, who is also the former SVP of the Chamber, observed that with a view to put an end to the misery faced by the country, the PSDP for all sectors be frozen for at least five years and funds may be diverted for the construction of mega storages on priority basis in the best interest of public, as IRSA suggested in its recent report.

He also appreciated the government as well as the opposition parties who become united to elect the Senate chairman, urging them to also show unity on the construction of Kalabagh Dam which is best possible option to eradicate loadshedding in least time. He said that the new storages will help improve the diminishing per capita water availability, increase the GDP and control flood. It will also ensure availability of cheap environment-friendly hydroelectric power to overcome the power crisis. He said that local and international water experts, including the World Bank and Earth Policy Institute, have also been warning Pakistan about major water crisis, flood and drought in the next 20-30 years owing to unusually fast depletion of the Himalayan glaciers, low storage capacity and other related uncertainties.

He said that the water regulator, comprising irrigation and engineering experts from all the four provinces, have also pointed out that at the very minimum 22 million acre feet (MAF) storage capacity should be developed at the earliest.

Basit also pointed out the fears expressed by Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif last month about looming water shortages which may force the people to forget current energy shortages. IRSA reports also pointed out that more than 30 MAF of water was going down to the sea, against 8-10 MAF required downstream Kotri for environmental reasons and hinted that endless discussions for ‘consensus’ projects was in fact a ploy to hide non-seriousness, he added.

He said that the need for water reservoirs, wherever feasible on the Indus and other rivers, was admitted and recognized for planned future agricultural development in the report.

He said that unfortunately, due to indifferent approach towards the precious resource, the availability of water at canal heads has reduced to 97 MAF (which was 105 MAF in 1991) against allocations of 117 MAF.

The gap will further widen and aggravate drastically, as the existing reservoirs’ capacities are diminishing with passage of time due to sedimentation and other factors, he pointed out.

Irsa said that an average of 30 MAF of fresh water was currently being released downstream Kotri Barrage to sea whereas the basic requirement was 8.6 MAF. “Thus almost 22 MAF fresh water is released below Kotri to the sea unutilised,” it said.

Keeping this in view, Irsa strongly recommends construction of new water storages of at least 22 MAF capacity on all feasible sites on war footing as agriculture is the backbone of the country,” Basit said.