IT was extremely distressing to hear Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf pronounce Kalabagh Dam dead. While he talked of saving the federation, whose symbol he claimed the PPP was, he sidestepped certain fundamental problems the country is faced with on the one hand, and the plentiful resources nature has endowed it with, on the other. While the problems can be overcome with careful exploitation of these resources, trying to circumvent them on the score of political expediency that flies in the face of considered judgement could, in some cases, threaten the very survival of the country. The fact can be overlooked at our own peril that the federation and the country go hand in hand. Therefore, it would be idle to confuse the issue and treat them as separate. For instance, the shortage of water, especially for an agricultural country, could deal a crippling blow to its economy. And with the everyday experience of seeing the flow of water getting thinner, fertile fields go dry and the growing needs of the population unmet, one does not have to argue the case for more water. In this backdrop, for the Minister to tell the nation that Kalabagh has been 'shelved forever' defies common sense. This reservoir can store up to 7.6 million acre feet of water that can be used to cultivate land, run industry and supply homes in times of need. Similarly baffling is the desperate quest for thermal power generation in the face of phenomenal rise in the prices of fossil fuels, while the agony of long and daily interruptions of electric supply could be relieved so cheaply with the help of hydel stations. And Kalabagh could generate 2400 MW of inexpensive power. Thermal generation should be the last resort. There is no denying that smaller federating units are opposed to its construction. It is strange, though, because Kalabagh Dam would provide an assured supply of water and power, reducing the rigours of drought as well as floods and helping to overcome the shortage of electricity. In such a scenario, the role of leadership lies in dispelling doubts of the dissenting provinces by placing facts before them and trying to bring them round to accept its construction as in the interest of everyone, rather than go with the tide of uninformed public opinion. A site that creates a natural reservoir to last almost forever, unlike most dams, has been found feasible in every respect and will prove of immense benefit to the country should not be sacrificed at the altar of roused emotions. Kalabagh clearly argues for a consensus and not a summary sentence.