Lahore - The Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) has said that water resources of Pakistan are depleting rapidly, and the country just cannot afford the release of huge quantity of water into the sea every day.

In a press release issued here on Sunday, Saarc CCI Vice President Iftikhar Malik said that Kalabagh Dam had been so much politicised that a consensus on the issue seemed difficult; therefore the government should take decision and start work.

He said that Pakistan’s energy mix was far from balanced; the power sector was heavily dependent on imported fuel, which was one of the reasons for circular debt and high electricity tariff.

“The government can also adopt advanced coal conversion technology and try to use Thar coal, which will help cut fuel import bill, create thousands of jobs and achieve energy security,” he suggested. He also asked the government to develop skills to deal with clean coal combustion technology and start manufacturing related machinery in a few years time.

Malik was of the view that country needed cheap electricity to run industries and sufficient water for deprived agriculture sector.

“The fact should be an eye-opener for all that almost nine million hectors of fertile land has been rendered useless just because of water scarcity,” he said, adding, “Pakistan needs to feed its population and the only solution to the challenge is Kalabagh Dam, which would also produce 3,500 MW of electricity initially at the rate of under Rs2 per unit.”

Saarc CCI vice president opined that Kalabagh Dam was the most feasible project for national economy that could be completed within five years.

He dismissed political circles’s talk about Bhasha Dam, and said its construction was 10 times more difficult than that of Kalabagh Dam.

Malik said that around $13 billion would be required for the construction of Bhasha Dam, while other expenses would also be incurred besides the cost. “For example, around 150 km long stretch of Karakorum Highway will have to be reconstructed at the cost of $6 to 7 billion for building the dam,” he said.

Elaborating further, he said around $3 billion more would be required for the transmission line from Bhasha to the national grid. “Collectively, more than $20 billion would be required for the construction of Bhasha Dam,” he estimated.

Malik further said that Kalabagh Dam was not only beneficial for Punjab alone, but it would be more helpful in eliminating poverty from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as it would irrigate 800000 acres of cultivable land, located 100-150 feet above the Indus River, of the province. “This land could only be brought under cultivation, if the river level is raised that is only possible if Kalabagh Dam is built,” he explained.

He said that Pakistan was one of those countries where water and power scarcity had become the burning issues. “Rising population graph can also give birth to severe food shortage challenges in near future; therefore we need to plan today for days to come,” he emphasised.