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Kalabagh Dam and the impending water crisis

"If the right decision to build a dam is not made, Pakistan may soon become a state with a water shortage. Critics claim that the dam is a highly uneconomical project since its lifespan is too brief and its price is too high"

The Kalabagh Dam is a hydroelectric dam proposed on the Indus River near Kalabagh in the Mianwali District. It has been the subject of significant discussion along ethnic and regional lines for more than 40 years.

Plans to build the dam on the Indus River in western Punjab have been the subject of ongoing conflicts for more than three decades. Opponents counter that the project would have an impact on downstream water availability and livelihoods while supporters offer it as a method to fulfill water and energy demands. The allocation of water among the provinces has been governed by a number of treaties and authorities, but a resolution to the ongoing conflict is still pending while the federal government completes its evaluation of the Kalabagh dam.

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Challenges in the construction of the dam

In the past 30 years, the predicted cost of this project has escalated to more than three times what it was in the original proposal. Dam construction delays are not unusual. Based on the largest database of its kind, a study done at Oxford University found that delays in dam-building can total up to 45% on average. The maintenance of budget, schedule, and benefits during project delivery is widely regarded as the definition of success in megaproject management.

Pakistan currently has the biggest electrical crisis, flood damage, and rapidly diminishing water storage capabilities in existing dams. If the right decision to build a dam is not made, Pakistan may soon become a state with a water shortage. Critics claim that the dam is a highly uneconomical project since its lifespan is too brief and its price is too high.

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Power generating would have an impact on the availability of irrigation water for agriculture, especially in the lower portions of the country. It would also cause water disputes to flare up among the provinces. An agrarian economy like Pakistan’s can suffer greatly if power is generated by storing perennial water, which can hinder timely irrigation.

Pakistan will have to deal with a more serious dilemma of high fuel prices if the dam is not built. If the dam were to be built, the annual energy produced at Kalabagh would be equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil. The economy would be further burdened if Pakistan had to import this much fuel for thermal power.

Some other factors pointed out by different authorities are:

Not enough water to dam

WAPDA’s support for the Kalabagh project is based on water availability estimates that are exceedingly dubious, if not downright false. The Kalabagh reservoir might not be able to be filled, according to some evidence.

Shortage of cultivable land

Despite the availability of water, there is evidence that more land is not accessible to significantly enhance food production in cultivable areas.

More water logging and salinity

Increased salinity and water logging problems in the Indus Basin system run the risk of getting worse.

Solutions

  • If the project is carried forward by the right team, the right budget, and the right skills, there can be a chance for Pakistan to recover from its environmental issues, although this will take a long time.
  • The four main factors that impede progress and development in this nation are a lack of political will, lack of vision, corruption, and incompetence. It is precisely these problems that have put the Kalabagh project on hold. The situation in our nation won’t get better unless these four problems are resolved.
  • Since KP is utilizing roughly 3 MAF less water than its allotted share, and up to 2016, KP suffered a loss of approximately Rs303.62 billion. The provision of KP’s fair share of water can only be ensured via Kalabagh Dam.
  • Sindh’s biggest concern about Kalabagh Dam is that it will turn Sindh into a desert because there isn’t any more water for storage, and Sindh’s water share will be kept in the dam’s reservoir. This criticism is directed at the dam’s fundamental design. If there isn’t enough water to fill the dam’s reservoir, it cannot be said that the dam is practicable. It is untrue that there isn’t enough water for storage. In fact, water will be available after the Kalabagh dam is built, exceeding the needs of downstream Kotri.
  • Thirdly, according to Sindh, it would no longer be possible to cultivate in flood-prone zones. In reality, Kalabagh Dam will ensure that water is available for use by all provinces as well as providing cheap electricity generation at a cost of around Rs1.10 per unit.
  • The argument that insufficient freshwater input into the Indus River downstream of Kotri will permit seawater incursion and thereby damage the fertile fields of Thatta, Badin, Sanghar, Nawabshah, and the surrounding districts is equally unpersuasive. The Kalabagh Dam would undoubtedly increase Sindh’s water supply, which would increase the amount of Indus water flowing into the sea downstream of Kotri and reduce the likelihood that seawater would enter the Indus delta.
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