Greater Thal Canal, Kachhi Canal, LBOD, RBOD and Rainnee Canal are under construction and are likely to be completed according to schedule. The Akhori Dam project is in progress at a slow pace, while there is stalemate on Kalabagh Dam (KBD). There is a dire need to construct KBD immediately, while the work on Akhori Dam should be speeded up, so that crops can be saved from the devastating effects of floods and the people and industries can get cheap electricity. Of all these dams, barrages, canals and drains, however, KBD is the most vital darn to regulate the flow of water of the River Indus system.

KBD can be completed within five to six years at an estimated cost of $6,124 million. It will have a gross water storage capacity of 7.9MAF, live storage of 6.1MAF and generate 3,600MW of hydroelectricity.

KBD will provide enough water to downstream, Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and some of the districts in KPK, for Kharif crops from April so that cotton, rice, and sugarcane are cultivated at the right time. The water from the reservoirs of Diamer-Bhasha Dam, Tarbela Dam, and Akhori Dam will also have to pass through KBD, thus a constant flow of water for agriculture will be ensured till mid-June. By then, the water of glaciers also will keep flowing in River Indus and monsoon rains also start within a fortnight while required water will keep flowing through KBD to downstream of River Indus, and flood water will be absorbed for refilling of Diamer-Bhasha Dam, Tarbela Dam, Akhori Dam and KBD. These reservoirs will provide water for Rabi crop from October to March.

Due to the controlled flow of flood water; the Kuccha land on both sides of river Indus in Punjab and Sindh, will remain flooded for longer duration and the excess rain water will be drained in the sea without causing damage to crops, people and infrastructure.

The back water effect of the lake of KBD would end about 16 km downstream of Nowshera. The lowest ground levels at Mardan is 970 ft, Pabbi 960 ft and Swabi 1,000 ft MSL (mean sea level) where as the maximum conservation level of KBD is 915 ft MSL. Therefore, there is no question of flooding, or raising water table above the ground level of these places.

The invert levels of main drains of Mardan SCARP are higher than the reservoir elevation of 915 feet and the back water level in River Kabul and Kalapani Khwar. These will continue functioning without any obstruction.

The construction work on KBD has been stopped because of objections of Sindh, Balochistan, and KPK. We need to persuade leaders of these provinces to listen to us and feel the pain of the people and not  misguide them.

As Allama Iqbal has rightly said that “Fard qaim rabt milla se hai tanha kuch naheen”. The people of Pakistan are source of strength of country. Their will is supreme power of Pakistan. KBD is a project of national importance and for the benefit of all the four provinces. Some powerful environmentalist lobbies, fortified by foreign money, are posing extreme resistance to KBD’s construction. Many countries have built dams despite environmentalists’ resistance. Here, the three provincial assemblies have passed resolutions against construction of KBD.

There is a lobby that KBD should be constructed without getting the consensus of these provinces, or some lobbyists say that by virtue of provincial autonomy. Punjab should construct the KBD to store as much water as is its share. This is not a sensible approach and would cause severe resentment among the people of other provinces and government will not be able to stand the pressure and all efforts to construct KBD would go waste. We should adopt a strategy to let the people of three provinces know about the benefits of KBD, asking the politicians of these provinces to do their duty for the welfare of the people to allow the KBD to be constructed. I shall here talk about an incident of a country which is constituted of federating units - the USA.

The farmers in the US wanted irrigation to make the dry parts of their land flourish and become more fertile. In the central part of Washington State farmers were faced with a harsh climate that brought insufficient rainfall to produce healthy crops. So some intellectuals came out with an idea of constructing a dam on Columbia River while more popular idea was to build a long gravity canal from lakes in Idaho for irrigation. Despite the overwhelming positives of constructing the dam, there were several obstacles that delayed the construction. It took forty years to get the required funding to begin construction.

In October 1931, the proposal of the dam won the support of Army Corps of Engineers who agreed with the Reclamation Bureau that the cheapest, most favourable plan for developing the Columbia Basin is by erection of a great dam at Grand Coulee. Most people living outside of central Washington simply did not understand its benefits. After meetings with politicians, and vigorous debates, the ground was broken on Grand Coulee Dam. And after months of negotiations among states and debates in the Congress, President Roosevelt appropriated $63 million.

The construction of Grand Coulee Dam was started in 1933 so as to store and deliver water for irrigation of arid land and to generate electricity. It was argued that the revenue generated from electricity produced from the Grand Coulec dam will pay off all its costs and the irrigation of arid land would lead to a prosperous crop, healthy economy, and ultimately a self sufficient way of life. On completion, the dam flooded 21,000 acres of land as far as 150 miles upstream of Columbia river. In the flood zone were 11 towns, two railroads, 150 miles of country roads, four saw mills, cemeteries and miles of power, phone and telegraph lines.

Grand Coulee Dam contributed energy to the war efforts to power the army’s nuclear facility at Hanford site of Manhattan Project which made an atomic bomb, and aluminium industry and aircraft factories which manufactured fighter planes. The media hailed Grand Coulee Dam as almost single-handedly winning World War II for the allies. Politically, the construction of Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River is called the crown jewel of President Roosevelt’s public works projects. Today the dam is producing 8,609 megawatts of hydropower and irrigating 670,000 acres of land.

The case of KBD is similar to the Grand Coulee Dam. Our leadership at the federal government must engage the leadership of the provincial governments to reach at a consensus so that the construction of the KBD is started at the earliest. The intellectuals and media should focus efforts to approach the leadership of all the political parties and make them work for creating a consensus for the construction of KBD.

The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel, columnist and political analyst.