LAHORE  - Kalabagh dam is the only project in Pakistan that can make power affordable for the masses in a short period of five years. It is also the only project that can make the economy competitive and sustainable without the crutches of bailouts and loss of sovereignty.

Th Dam has the capacity to wipe out loadshedding and increase industrial output by $5-6 billion a year. Its contribution to value addition in agricultural output could go up to $10 billion a year. The dam has the potential to single-handedly wipe out rural poverty in Pakistan. Every province stands to benefit from this project.

This was the crux of the speeches delivered at a seminar on Economic Growth through Dam jointly organized by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Sind Tas Water Council here at LCCI on Saturday.

Former Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shamsul Mulk, former Federal Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah, LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari, Chairman Sind Tas Water Council Muhammad Salman Khan, Dr Ibrahim Mughal, Advocate A K Dogar, Col Abdul Razzaq Bugti from Sindh, Major ® Saddique Rehan, President Pakistan Engineering Congress Engineer Riaz Ahmad Khan, Engineer Muhammad Ayub Kakar from Balochistan, Nazar Hussain Dareshik, Faqir Muhammad Amin Khan, Prof Syed Nisar Safdar, Capt (Retd) Syed Khalid Sajjad, Prof Dr Engineer Zahid Ahmad Siddique, Aziz Zafar Azad and Neweera Babar and Chairman STWC Engineer Saeed Iqbal Bhatti expressed their views on the subject of vital national importance.

The speakers said that Kalabagh Dam could produce up to 15 billion units of power every year at an average cost of Rs 3 to 5 /kwh in next five years. The annual cost will be around Rs22 billion. This cheap power will annually displace costly power worth approximately Rs300 billion with consequential savings of costly oil imports. This saving alone would enough to done away with current account deficit, boost reserves and strengthen the rupee.

In his telephonic address, Engineer Shamsul Mulk said that he had been talking on the issue for a long time now but unfortunately neither any politician nor any government  gave due attention towards this problem which has now put the very survival of the country at stake.

He said the dam is absolutely essential to irrigate 800000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100-150 feet above the Indus river level in NWFP. He said this land could only be brought under cultivation if the river level is raised that is only possible if Kalabagh Dam is built. He said the other alternative is to pump the water which is very costly. He creditable studies have indicated that pumping water for potential cultivable land would cost farmers Rs 5000 per acre per year while canal water after construction of Kalabagh Dam would cost only Rs400 per acre per year.

Former Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah said over the years, Sindh’s irrigation network has stagnated. The marvellous north-south Nara irrigation canal system that emanates from the Sukkur Barrage irrigates 2.5 million acres of land. The Kotri Barrage was constructed in 1955 with a command area of three million acres, while the Guddu Barrage was completed in 1962 and irrigates around 2.9 million acres of land. The additional water made available by the Mangla and Tarbela dams was channelled through these barrages to the water-rich districts of Sindh. The water-starved districts of the east, however, were ignored. The future prosperity of eastern Sindh is now certainly closely linked to water storage from the construction of the Kalabagh dam.

This epic mega project can transform the rural economy of Sindh, generate large-scale employment, huge agricultural surpluses and quickly wipe out rural poverty. Its benefits can set rural Sindh’s economy on a continuous high growth path.

LCCI President Engineer Sohail Lashari urged the government to focus on construction of water reservoirs in the country. He said that country had already suffered a huge financial loss due to unavailability of electricity, gas but it is very unfortunate that Kalabagh Dam had been labeled as a political issue. It is not a political issue at all it is an economic issue and merits priority keeping in view the economic conditions.

The LCCI President said that Balochistan and Sindh would be the biggest beneficiary of Kalabagh Dam. Engineer Sohail Lashari said that the country’s economic well being is directly linked to the construction of water reservoirs therefore the government should take practical measures for early construction of Kalabagh Dam.

Counting benefit of this dam, Dr Ibrahim Mughal said that it would help bringing additional 2 million acres of land under irrigation in Sindh, Badin, Thatha and other districts while 800,000 acres of land in Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu in Khybper Pakhtunkhawa. It would also help irrigation of 700,000 acres of land in Balochistan and also provide essential water to Punjab. He said this dam would generate 3,600 mega watt cheaper electricity and electricity consumers would get over Rs 133 billion relief in the bills and it would also help ending loadshedding from the country.