With the resurrection of the heated debate of Kalabagh dam in the National Assembly, the issue of water scarcity has been politicised once more and sidelined because of various interests of the parliamentarians and their respective parties. The representatives of the public have made a fuss over Kalabagh whenever water issues are brought up, and this time was no different. Accusations were hurled to and fro in the assembly, amid shouting matches and veiled threats.

The Bhasha dam is now being seen as a less-controversial alternative, with no care for the added issues that will be caused as a result of its construction. The Bhasha dam, once constructed, will flood areas that are currently home to over 35000 people. In addition to this, at least 100 kilometers of the Karakoram Highway will have to be rerouted because parts of it will be submerged. Tens of thousands of old rock carvings will vanish, a great blow to the area’s historical remains. The massive price tag of $ 8.5 billion is also a concern, and the help of the US is being sought to make funds available. Seismic activity in the region is also a risk that needs to be taken into account.

While Sindh has valid concerns that need to be addressed, opposition to the Kalabagh dam by Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtun Khwa is mere political pandering. Asfandyar Wali Khan’s comments reveal the extent to which he will use rhetoric to try and manipulate public opinion. He neglected to cite a single reason as to why he is so blatantly against the construction of Kalabagh. There is no concrete evidence that Sindh will face a water shortage either due to the construction of the dam. There is also an argument for increasing water reliability through irrigation channels if the dam is made, which only helps the rates of food security in an agricultural country.

Flood control is also a realistic possibility, if a dam that size is built. The 2010 floods could have easily been avoided if Kalabagh was already in place. The obvious increase in power generation by building the dam would benefit the entire country, and not just Punjab. The Kalabagh dam is no small project, and at least 3500 MW would be generated if the project is ever completed.

It is time the National Assembly works for a project that will realistically aid the development of Pakistan and counter the energy crisis instead of relying on stopgap measures.