It was reported by the press on March 4, 2013, that in early February 2013 Dr Nadeem-ul-Haq, Deputy Chairman of Pakistan’s Planning Commission, while chairing a meeting of major donors in Islamabad, has advised them not to dictate Pakistan. He said it was Pakistan’s prerogative to identify and prioritise projects. The donors present, reportedly, included World Bank, ADB and USAID officials. They were, in fact, accused of having an “agenda” under which Diamer-Bhasha Dam (DBD) on the Indus main was not being funded, while the downstream Dasu HEP was being favoured by them. Undoubtedly, Dr Haq’s position is correct.

The DBD is planned as a large reservoir, multi-purpose “mega-dam”, while Dasu HEP is merely a power generation project whose first phase that will generate 1,000 MW is to be funded by the World Bank. The Dasu HEP has provision for future expansion to generate a total of 4,000 MW using additional tunnels. In fact, the absence of DBD reservoir upstream will be a constraint on achieving the desired energy output of Dasu HEP, as it needs the regulation capability of an upstream reservoir to attain its maximum design capacity. These technical details one could discuss separately. But before that let us give credit where it is due. Bravo Dr Haq, the nation can be rightly proud of your position with the donors.

However, it was a pleasant surprise to know that Mr Shakeel Durrani, former WAPDA Chairman, who also attended the February meeting as an Adviser to the Ministry of Water and Power, reportedly, had gone on record with his position that the World Bank under Indian influence did not want any “big project” in Pakistan. He accused it of “sabotaging and wrecking the DBD project.” Nevertheless, he has stated this a little late in the day.

During his tenure (2007-2012), he was an open opponent of the Kalabagh Dam (KBD). This reservoir “mega-dam” project on the Indus main downstream of DBD, Dasu HEP and the existing Tarbela Dam was unanimously proposed by the world’s leading hydrologists and engineers over five decades ago and its design completed in the early 1980s. However, in April 2008, within some six months of Mr Durrani’s chairmanship, the infamous declaration “of an official closure” of the KBD was made by the Minister of Water and Power, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, during a press briefing at the WAPDA House, Lahore.

The Pakistani nation blissfully asleep since some 30 years on the critical issue of the KBD barely noticed and continued its deep slumber. The bureaucracy always happy to import more oil, oblivious of the fact that it is unsustainable for the national economy (and its infrastructure), looked the other way. Obviously, the Indians were jubilant.

Mr Durrani’s lobbying for Diamir-Bhasha dam was always suspect. He is on record having blocked every mega-dam on the Indus main and he succeeded. This was also the position of the President Asif Ali Zardari, who repeated the mantra “build small dams”. But Mr Durrani now has the gall to blame the World Bank and the “Indian influence”.

Returning to Mr Durrani’s tenure as WAPDA Chairman, it was unfortunate that his mission had been chalked out for him. Not once did the nation hear him rebut the Indian position that the northern areas of Pakistan (Gilgit-Baltistan or GB) are historically part of “Greater Kashmir” and hence, the World Bank and other multilaterals may not finance any project there. He now attacks the World Bank.

Every senior hydrologist and civil engineer, who served in WAPDA since its formation in 1958, has supported the KBD project and declared it as a “survival issue” for the national economy. It is, indeed, the point of maximum flow of the Indus main. It is the location from where the poverty-stricken Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province can finally receive Indus waters through gravity flow canals. The Pehur high level non-perennial canal from Tarbela Dam is insignificant.  The KPK needs and must receive its share of Indus waters to fight the scourge of poverty and the resultant extremism that has engulfed its brave people. It was re-assuring to hear on December 12, 2012, the venerable Mr Shamsul Mulk, in the presence of two other eminent senior engineers from KPK, Mr Khalid Mohtadullah and Sardar Tariq, restate his position on KBD. It was the third and final meeting of Pakistan Business Council’s “Committee on Water” and the venue was Mr Mulk’s office in Islamabad.

One wonders what happened to COAS General Pervez Musharraf’s clear position on KBD as reaffirmed by him on April 29, 1999, in front of at least 80 of us in a GHQ meeting room. In less than a year after he had become the Chief Executive of Pakistan, the KBD project was again made controversial. In June 2001, the dam received a low ranking in the “Vision 2025” WAPDA report as announced.

Later Senator Nisar Memon’s committee managed to convince President Musharraf that the 260ft high KBD could be built on the 660ft high DBD and a combined height of 920ft at Diamer could be a two-in-one solution. This suited some Sindh lobbyists, who did not want any additional canal withdrawals from the Indus main. Surely, the DBD has now been designed as a very dangerous structure due to its excessive height (and location). A tragic trust deficit in Sindh (against Punjab) has been cynically manoeuvred by the incessant ANP propaganda. Senator Nisar Memon then wanted a “seal of approval” and constituted in 2003 the Technical Committee under Mr A.N.G Abbasi. This was an absolutely unwarranted exercise in view of the existing World Bank financial reports on KBD, including the ISO-14000 compliance certification (1987). The March 1991 Water Apportionment Accord signed by all four Provincial Chief Ministers had later sanctioned the building of several reservoirs on the Indus.

After 2003, the WAPDA management took keen interest in the Neelum-Jhelum HEP (Tunnel project). The flow of the Western rivers are perpetually a Pak endowment and for the “uninterrupted use” of Pakistan. The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) 1960 Annexure “D” para 15 (iii) states: “Where a plant is located on a tributary of the Jhelum on which Pakistan has any agricultural use or hydro-electric use, the water released below the plant may be delivered, if necessary, into another tributary, but only to the extent that the then existing agricultural use or hydro-electric use by Pakistan on the former tributary would not be adversely affected.”

From the onset, it is clear that once the intention of using the waters of the Neelum have been shown, the Indians had to stop the Kishenganga HEP as it involves the transfer of Neelum waters to another tributary of the Jhelum inside IHK. Kashmir was always the jugular vein of the Pakistani nation. A false pretext was used to induct two Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs), in spite of the fact that no independent consultant had recommended them due to soil and seismic factors. If there truly was a race between India and Pakistan, the first design option with less than 60 percent total tunnel length should have been chosen. The second design option (969 MW) requires the deepest hydraulic tunnel in the world (under the Jhelum upper limb). The first option could help generate 550 MW at the head of 220 meters and cost about $1 billion in half the construction time. Surprisingly, the contract for the second option was signed for $1.4 billion in 2008 (a clear bluff). Estimates crossed $3.3 billion in 2010 and project estimated to cost $5 billion by 2025 when it can hope to be commissioned. Therefore, for an additional 400 MW, the nation will spend at least $4 billion.

KBD is blocked politically by the ANP, while DBD is blocked financially by a combination of errors at the Kashmir Ministry and a deafening silence of the WAPDA management. The nation bleeds.

The water endowment with a hydel potential of +80,000 MW as well as the irrigation component remain seriously under utilised, and that is a loss of at least $60 billion annually. Instead of WAPDA being the prime mover of the economy, the corrupt rulers forced the nation to depend on imported energy resources from 1994 onwards. Its dreadful consequences are before us. Today, it is furnace oil worth over $15 billion per year for power generation and tomorrow, it will be piped gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG) all for failing to use our own power generation potential.

Let me now reiterate our position of 1994: Pakistan’s economy can never prosper on imported energy. Natural gas imports will be a complicated issue. The “influentials” will keep the bulk of it for the domestic sector to please their constituents. Due to the abject failure of our energy policy, we now must import coal and mix with it the local variety for replacing the furnace oil for power plants. Coal will be a cheaper thermal resource, but there is no comparison to low cost hydropower. WAPDA was tasked repeatedly to ensure +70 percent hydel energy within the energy mix. The thermal sector (public and private) was desired at less than 30 percent in this energy mix. Pakistan can sustainably meet +90 percent of its primary energy needs (presently 70mn tons). With top officials against mega-dams at the instance of anti-dam lobby, the economy reached this terminal stage. 

During a visit to India in July 2010 for the “Closed Door Conference on Water”, it was clear how deadly serious the Indians take the business of water in absolute contrast to our attitude. It is a subject strictly controlled by their Foreign Ministry; a strategic subject considered vital by their nation. They have created all the conditions to renegotiate the IWT 1960. The defeat of the Pak cases on Baghliar-I HEP and Kishenganga HEP are actually in absolute contradiction to the tenets of the IWT 1960. Let me add, our nominee was not qualified to represent Pakistan. WAPDA has a major role in the IWT 1960 implementation. The Pakistani Commissioner for Indus Waters had to take the advice of WAPDA in all technical matters. Is it not a calamity that such national issues are handled by unqualified and incompetent individuals?

The adversary has a huge resource base of hydrologists, scientists and engineers with ICIW and ICID. The WAPDA Chairmen and Members  during the last 10 years must share major responsibility for these lapses. The fact that India builds +173 HEP projects in IHK (mostly in violation of IWT 1960) and blocks financing of Pak projects in the northern areas/GB province using the World Bank Kashmir Policy was known to WAPDA top managers since many years. In spite of this, there have been two inaugurations of the DBD project in 2006 and 2011. It is a failure of the Federal Ministry and the WAPDA management, compounded doubly by those who duped the nation with false promises.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: