By Aziz Narejo
Notwithstanding opposition to mega water projects, WAPDA, as reported by the daily Ibrat, has outlined feasibility for Bhasha Dam (in fact it favors Kalabagh Dam more) and the Ministry of Water and Power is contemplating to finalize recommendations on the dam to be built first.
It is unbelievable how the voices against the controversial mega dams and Greater Thal Canal are being continuously ignored, discounted and disregarded. The government would talk to India on Baghliar Dam and Wullar Barrage but won't listen to her own subjects on the disputed projects within the country. It won't allow Afghanistan to take unilateral decision on damming Kabul River but would do the same on Indus River without hearing the concerns of the major stakeholder, the province of Sindh. If international water distribution is to follow any rules and lower riparian countries have certain rights why not accede the same to a lower riparian province?
The opponents of the mega dams have sufficiently proved that there is no water available for such projects: we donít have enough water to fill even the present dams -Tarbela and Mangla - however silted they are. How wise it is then to spend billions of dollars on new dams that are to remain empty for 4 out of 5 or 80 out of 100 years?
The oft-repeated argument in favour of new dams is the so-called wastage of water below Kotri. The calculation of the Ďwastageí is based on the super flood years that occur once in 5 to 10 years. For most of the time no water is allowed below Kotri causing colossal damage in human, economic and environmental terms. Also that not all the rains that cause super floods occur in the catchment areas of the proposed dams. Do we have any plans to store the rainwater of Badin in the reservoirs at Kalabagh or Bhasha?
An important point to consider is that in recent years 96-104 MAF of water has been acknowledged in the system as against 117.35 MAF of water distributed under the 1991 Water Accord. It means we already are facing a shortage of over 12 MAF in the system. Can one imagine how precarious the situation would become if the required water below Kotri, Indian share in the eastern and western rivers, present and future system losses and the losses due to any dams on Kabul River are accounted for?
And what of the water losses that will occur after the construction of a big dam? Please note that the system losses rose from 6.9 MAF post Mangla Dam to 16.2 MAF post Tarbela Dam. Can we afford such losses when we need almost every cusec of water?
One canít comprehend why donít we listen to experts who tell us of alternates that are less costly and more beneficial compared to the proposed mega dams? Why donít we heed to the World Commission on Dams word of caution against big dams that are losing favor the world over as EU, USA, China, Japan, Spain and others are rethinking and reversing their past policies. Anyone still unsure needs to study the International Rivers Network report on the subject titled "Beyond Dams: Options and Alternatives"
Why do we want to squander away our resources on projects that are controversial and divisive and would surely prove disastrous to the economy and the unity and integrity of the country? Why canít we instead spend on education, health, human services, infrastructure development and alternate water projects that would make us sure winners?