Pakistan doesn’t blame India for water theft
LAHORE – Pakistan does not blame India of stealing its water rather the conflict between the two neighbouring countries is on the issue of water flow in the river system.
This was stated by Pakistan Indus Waters Commissioner Mirza Asif Baig while responding to a question of the media after the three-day 74th Annual Session of Pakistan Engineering Congress held here at a local hotel on Wednesday.
During this session, eighteen technical papers were presented, covering various important subjects. A symposium on the subject of ‘Impact of Infrastructure Development & Pakistan Economy’ was also being held as part of this annual session. Besides, visits of delegates to the nine various projects of national importance were managed in the session. Engr Ghulam Hussain, President, Pakistan Engineering Congress, delivered welcome address.
In a reply to the question whether it is true that India is stealing Pakistan’s water, the Indus Waters Commissioner stated that Pakistan has clash with India on frequency of water flows and both the countries are fighting on this issue in the international court.
Mirza Asif Baig observed that Pakistan had raised objections on the technical designs of 300 MW Kishenganga and 850 MW Ratle hydro power projects being built by India; one on Chenab and other one on Jehlum rivers, arguing the designs are not in line with the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty and both projects are disturbing water flows to Pakistan.
He said the construction of Ratle power project on Chenab under the present objectionable design will reduce water flow of Chenab river at Head Marala by around 40 percent, which is vital to the irrigation in Punjab.
“We have asked the World Bank to constitute the Court of Arbitration and its response in this regard is still awaited,” he added. The World Bank is in process of mediation between the two countries on developing consensus in the light of Indus Waters Treaty to settle the issue of faulty designs of Indian power projects.
Earlier, addressing the opening session of Pakistan Engineering Congress, former Wapda chairman Shamsul Mulk said KBD can produce power at Rs1.5 per unit, as Terbela and Mangla dams are generating electricity at Rs1.5 per unit even today.
Enumerating the benefits of water reservoirs to cater the country’s water needs and hydro power generation, he stressed the need for initiating construction work on Kala Bagh Dam (KBD) without any further delay. So far the country had to bear an accumulative loss of Rs196 billion annually –Rs.100 billion to Punjab, Rs60 billion to Sindh and Rs36 billion to KP – in the absence of KBD, he added. He accused India for this conspiracy, saying water policy is formed in New Delhi and our people are on pay role of India for delaying construction of KBD.
Shamsul Mulk said water policy is simply non-existent in Pakistan. He said that the authorities appear to lack the political will to tackle the problem. There are no proper water storage facilities in the country. Pakistan has not built new dams since the 1960.
Not only high cost of electricity has retarded Pakistan’s industrial development rather the gas required for industries and domestic use is not available due to its excessive use in power generation. The additional availability of water due to KBD would increase the crops cultivable area in Pakistan thus helping poor farmers. The biggest beneficiary of KBD would be DI Khan area of KP, where around 800,000 acres of arable land would be able to be cultivated. The area being 150 feet higher than Indus River can only be cultivated economically with the construction of KBD. The KBD would save DI Khan, Punjab and Sindh from floods. KBD would help reduce electricity shortage to a great extent by providing cheap and environment friendly electricity.
Unfortunately the time is running out fast, any further delay in the construction of KBD and other big dams, especially in the face of Indian water aggression, would be catastrophic for the country. The ultimate sufferers would be the farmers and poor people.
After completion of KBD, Bhasha Dam should be pursued which would provide additional electricity and further reduce dependence on fuel generated electricity.
In his welcome address, Engr Ghulam Hussain, President, Pakistan Engineering Congress, stated that PEC recommends that the policy of hydel power generation should be adopted as a long term policy. Construction of a cascade of mega storage and hydropower projects on the Indus River comprising of Diamer Basha, Kalabagh Dam. Akhori Dam and Dasu, Pattan, Thakot and Bunji Hydropower Projects will provide a very strong base for agricultural and industrial development of the country.
He said electricity charges have registered unprecedented higher indices and are further spiraling. Consequently, higher power charges have adversely affected the industrial and agricultural sectors. There is thus dire need to revert to full exploitation of our hydro power potential of over 60,000 MW. The minning of coal reserves of Thar to provide affordable energy besides tapping the renewal energy resources such as wind, solar and biomass should be given special attention by federal and provincial governments.
He said that our population is growing rapidly and our needs for food and other agricultural products have greatly increased. “God has blessed Pakistan with land, large rivers, excellent climate and hardworking people yet, we continue to remain importers of edible oils, tea and other commodities. We have virtually clamped down on further development of major water storages for the last 40 years. The cumulative storage capacity of the major water reservoirs including Mangla and Tarbela has decreased by 25 percent because of the natural phenomenon of sedimentation.”
He said that 29 MAF of water flows downstream of Kotri Barrage every year on the average from 1976-2017. This necessitates increase in water storage capacity of Pakistan by constructing new dams. WAPDA through various studies has identified that Pakistan has potential of 60,000 MW hydel generation, which needs to be harnessed to its maximum for injecting low cost hydel electricity in the national grid to provide cheaper electricity to the masses and boost up the industrial and agricultural development in the country. Within another five to ten years, shortage of canal irrigation supplies would become serious issue besides competing demands for urban water supplies and industry, he added.