Water and power are two important sectors which are causing problems to the people across the country for varying reasons. Electricity load shedding has been there since early 1980s when the people suffered power outages for couple of hours particularly in summer months and duration of power outages was considerably increased when democratic regimes, PPP and PML (N) came into power one after the other between 2008 to 2018. No doubt more than ten thousand megawatts of power generation was added to the system during the last five years but due to inadequate distribution and transmission system which was somehow not updated to commensurate with the increasing power generation could not fully take additional power to pass on the benefit to the domestic and other categories of consumers according to provide them some relief.
As far as water is concerned, its shortage is becoming chronic with the passage of time as precious water in huge quantity is going into the Arabia Sea every year as waste due to lack of additional major storage facility. Pakistan can only store water for 30 days and according to the experts it direly needs to narrow the gap between the ever-growing population in unabated, uncontrolled and unchecked population and its mounting needs and the number and capacity of water reservoirs. Experts are already sounding strong warnings every now and then that in the absence of adequate major storage facility and water continuingly going into the sea as waste, the country could face drought like situation as early as 2025.
WAPDA’s Chairman retired Lt General Muzammil Hussain couple of weeks back in his detailed briefing to a Senate Standing Committee on Water in Islamabad talked about Kalabagh Dam and other projects which are under process or implementation by WAPDA for tackling onrushing water shortage problems of the country.
About Kalabagh Dam, WAPDA Chairman said that Kalabagh Dam should be with consensus of all political parties, proposed handing over operational control of the controversial project to Sindh province to address its reservations over the use of water , the reservations of Sindh province regarding Kalabagh Dam are justified while that of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah province are technically unjustified and stand duly addressed, Kalabagh Dam is the most technically viable project and political consensus is required for building the mega dam.
He pointedly stated that in Pakistan as much as around 50 per cent irrigation water is wasted while in Punjab province the telemetry system has been broken and same is the case in Sindh, water storage capacity of all dams including Tarbela and Mangla and capacity of Tarbela has been reduced by more than 30 per cent, water availability has been considerably reduced and consumption is increasing, we are supplying water to Kachhi Canal but the Balochistan province has not made the required irrigation and water distribution system.
Since the water sector is of highly complex nature, its management vision cannot be based only on short term or medium term plans, rather it has to be long term plan. However for implementation and monitoring purposes convenience, the Vision 2025 has to be split into short term development plan and the future development strategy in the water sector as such has to be based on new development framework.
Various studies have pointed out that more than 50 per cent water losses occur in our existing irrigation system. In order to minimize these losses to the maximum extent possible, Rehabilitation and Modernization of Existing Irrigation System programme is to be undertaken gradually through Annual Development Programmes (ADPs) of the provinces in future. However, an amount of Rs 3,200 million has been provided during 2018-19 for the improvement and, rehabilitation and modernization of the irrigation system and lining of irrigation channels in saline zones. Furthermore for ensuring flood management, an amount of Rs 1,000 millions is planned to be incurred on completion of different emergent nature of small dams schemes all over Pakistan.
As regards water conservation and eradication of contamination , ongoing prioritized projects include canal lining in all provinces, rehabilitation of irrigation systems in all provinces, remodeling of Warsak Canal and high efficiency irrigation system also in all provinces and future interventions plans include Lining of KB Feeder Upper Canal for water supply to Karachi, continuation of already ongoing projects and construction of Feeder Canal to Manchar Lake to eradicate contamination.
Ongoing flood management and drainage projects implementation will also continue in the future and a feasibility on rain water harvesting /hill torrents management is in progress and survey and study design for construction of rain water dams along river Indus in Sindh province is also in process as prioritized on-going projects.
To summarize, it may be mentioned here that the prime resolve of the Annual Plan for fiscal year 2018-19 for Water Sector is to prioritize and line up investment for this important sector in the light of National Water Policy and 12th Five Year Plan so as to create new storage facilities and increase system efficiency for water conservation with a broader objective of achieving and ensuing water energy food security. The plan duly recognizes the dire need for introducing appropriate measures, reforms and knowledge based interventions to make water infrastructure and management system more efficient and sustainable. National Water Policy provides essentially necessary framework and guiding principles to achieve water security while 12th Five Year Plan sets milestones for system augmentation and resource conservation with the Annual Plan acting as means to ensure implementation of the National Water Policy and 12th Five Year Plan.
The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.