Kal­abagh Dam Pros and Cons

Had the Kal­abagh Dam been built, it would have con­trib­uted greatly to boost­ing Pak­istan’s econ­omy but the nar­row vi­sion of cer­tain vested in­ter­ests has ren­dered the project a non-starter.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By En­gi­neer Barkat Ali

A project be­set by con­tro­versy that is hurt­ing Pak­istan at its very roots.

Dur­ing a visit to Wash­ing­ton in 1963, Pres­i­dent Muham­mad Ayub Khan im­pressed upon the World Bank the need for a De­vel­op­ment Plan be­yond Tar­bela Dam. The WB set up the ‘In­dus Spe­cial Study’ un­der in­ter­na­tional ex­perts of re­pute. Af­ter three years, they pro­duced a re­port ti­tled ‘De­vel­op­ment of Water and Power Re­sources of West Pak­istan.’

It was made clear that if Pak­istan wanted to main­tain its pace of progress, it must have a third large dam by 1992 and the pre­lim­i­nary en­gi­neer­ing work on the dam must be­gin in 1977. This large dam should be based in Kal­abagh, fol­lowed by the Basha Dam. WAPDA started in­ves­ti­ga­tions in 1977 and fea­si­bil­ity re­ports on the Kal­abagh Dam were pre­pared twice. Work was com­pleted in 1988. It be­came ob­vi­ous that the Kal­abagh Dam, lo­cated near the town of Kal­abagh, would be a big and fea­si­ble reser­voir.

The im­por­tant ben­e­fits that would ac­crue to Pak­istan once the Kal­abagh Dam was built would be that it would gen­er­ate a large amount of low cost hy­dro-elec­tric power close to ma­jor load cen­tres; com­ple­ment re­duc­tion in the stor­age ca­pac­i­ties of Mangla and Tar­bela reser­voirs, sup­ply ad­e­quate and timely water for agri­cul­tural, in­dus­trial and do­mes­tic uses; con­trol the ex­treme flood peaks of the In­dus, the Kabul and the Soan rivers; pro­vide ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties to new ar­eas and im­prove sup­ply to non-peren­nial and peren­nial ar­eas; re­duce de­pen­dence on im­ported fuels and sub­stan­tially re­duce av­er­age power gen­er­a­tion costs.

The con­se­quences of not build­ing the dam would be a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion that would sub­ject the econ­omy to an ad­di­tional bur­den through nu­mer­ous im­pacts; by 2020, the loss of stor­age ca­pac­ity of on-line reser­voirs (Mangla ex­cluded) due to sed­i­men­ta­tion would re­sult in in­creas­ing short­age of com­mit­ted ir­ri­ga­tion and ab­sence of new stor­ages would give rise to bit­ter in­ter­provin­cial dis­putes. It was es­ti­mated that the an­nual en­ergy gen­er­ated at Kal­abagh would be equiv­a­lent to 20 mil­lion bar­rels of oil pro­duc­ing ther­mal power. Now, ther­mal gen­er­a­tion has up­set the ther­mal-hy­del mix in the sys­tem, caus­ing a pro­hib­i­tive rise in the power tar­iff. Had the Kal­abagh Dam been built, elec­tric­ity to­day would be avail­able at Rs. 1.5 per unit. At present, growth of do­mes­tic in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural sec­tors is be­ing im­peded due to the high power cost.

Also, due to non-avail­abil­ity of enough fresh water, sec­ondary salin­iza­tion of lands has be­come dif­fi­cult to con­trol. For in­stance, there is a fer­tile vir­gin tract of land of about 850,000 acres in Bannu and Dera Is­mail Khan Dis­tricts which is still bereft of ir­ri­ga­tion. This means that Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa has lost a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity for agri­cul­tural growth. Sindh could also have been a ma­jor ben­e­fi­ciary from the Kal­abagh Dam and would have re­ceived ad­di­tional sup­plies of 2.257

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