A National Lifeline
In view of the rising energy crisis and to further boost the country’s agriculture sector, construction of new large water reservoirs is very much in line with national needs. It would be recalled that considerable interest was generated several years back about the proposed construction of the Kalabagh Dam which was opposed without explicit technical reasons in wake of a national debate. The requirement for water for expansion of the country’s vitally important agriculture sector can be gauged from the fact that while more than 70 million acres of land in the country is cultivable, only 44.4 million acres – or much less in wake of the recent two major floods - is actually being cultivated. The construction of large and new water reservoirs would help cultivate huge tracts of so far barren land, thus greatly boosting agricultural production and adding to Pakistan’s overall need for water. It is, in fact, said that Pakistan would need to build a new dam every 10 to 15 years for cultivation and power generation purposes.
The country has so far constructed 49 small dams and plans to build eight more in Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock and Chakwal areas in order to promote agriculture in these regions. Construction of the six small dams is expected to be completed during the current financial year which would help irrigate around 12,310 acres of agricultural land. The dams include Darmalak Dam (Kohat), Lawaghar and Karak Dam (Karak), Khair Bara Dam (Haripur), Jabba Khattak Dam (Nowshera) and Palai Dam (Charsadda).
It is also reported that 12 more dams would be constructed in two phases in all the four provinces with storage capacity of four MAF water. In the first phase Winder and Naulong dams will be constructed in Balochistan, Kurram Tangi in Khyber-pakhtunkhwa, Darwat and Nai Gaj in Sindh and Ghabir Dam in Punjab. Recently Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani inaugurated construction of the Diamer Basha Dam and termed it a “lifeline” for the country. From its date of commencement, the dam will take at least eight years to construct and would provide some 4,500 MW of power—which could go a long way in plugging a good part of the existing and future power shortfall in the country. The 50-mile-long reservoir might also be able to hold back enough water to prevent the kind of devastating flooding seen in 2010.
It is unfortunate that while the feasibility study and engineering design of the Kalabagh Dam has been completed, actual construction work has been held up for nothing else but political reasons. Had work on Kalabagh Dam started, the multi- dimensional project would have been completed within six to seven years, which would be much less than the time it would take to build another dam of similar dimensions. One example of how Kalabagh would augment the country’s power generation resources is that the production power of Tarbela Dam would increase by at least 30 percent – a big boon in these times when the nation is reeling under power shortages