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.
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