Terming the Kalabagh Dam a lifeline for the country’s future, the speakers at a seminar said that the vision of Quaid-e-Azam was to build Kalabagh Dam (Mianwali Hydro Project) and Nara Canal to meet energy requirements through cheep electricity and provide water to the desert of Thar.

“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,” observed Chairman Sindh Tas Water Council Pakistan Muhammad Suleman Khan at a seminar organized by the Institution of Engineers Pakistan.

Quoting a Wapda report, he stated that the annual electricity generated at Kalabagh Dam would be equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil otherwise needed to produce costly thermal power. This annual import of fuel would require augmentation of transportation infrastructure. It is the additional burden of billion of U.S dollars per annum to the economy.

“IRSA is responsible authority of four of the provinces and federal government. Its Chairman Engr. Raqib Khan (who belongs to Khyber Pk) has written an official letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Water & Power, Government of Pakistan for the water crises in the country. He wrote “IRSA strongly recommended the construction of new water storages of at least 22 MAF capacity on all the feasible sites on war footing basis as agriculture is the back bone of the country’s economy (it is point to note that the capacity of Kalabagh Dam is only 6.1Maf). The new storages will help to improve the diminishing per capita water availability, increase in GDP, control of floods etc., besides availability of cheap environment friendly Hydel Power to overcome the Power crises being faced by the country which is giving a serious setback to the economy.

Chairman Pakistan Engineering Council, Engr Abdul Qadir Shah, who is the brother of Syed Khurshid Shah, senior opposition leader of Pakistan People’s Party and the opposition leader in National Assembly, said at the event of World Water Day that “We have only the storage of 50 days whereas Egypt has 700 days storage in Aswan Dam, China is a big country of huge population has the storage of 500 days whether India has the storage of 120-220 days. We are facing horrible shortage of water. We have to build dams at any cost otherwise after 10-15 years, Pakistan will be the land of deserts.

“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.