Unacceptability of the Dam
Lt Col (R) Raees Khan Afridi
Back in 1987, when I was serving as a Major in Pakistan army, a hot issue took over the nation: "Should Kalabagh dam be constructed or not?" Being a student of Geography and a curios to know about the proposed Dam, I decided to see the site myself and discuss the geographical problems as well as the economic expenditure with the consultants. The site is 5/6 kilometres (north) upstream from Kalabagh, but it is downstream from the junction where river Sawan from Talagang and river Tui from Kohat joins river Indus.
I raised the following queries in connection with the Dam when I met the Pakistani consultant who was working with the foreign consultant company:-
a. Is there any left bank canal which will irrigate the Barani areas of Tehsil Pindi Gheb, Tehsil Talagang and Tehsil Chakwal?
b. Is there any right bank canal which will irrigate the Barani areas of district Kohat, Karak and Bannu?
The consultant said that there was no such arrangement for the irrigation of Barani lands. On further investigation, the consultant informed me that all the three links roads ie the Attock-Talagang road on river Sawan, the Kohat-Rawalpindi road on river Indus and the Peshawar-Rawalpindi road on river Indus will be threatened by the Kalabagh dam. All these bridges will have to be reconstructed, for which a colossal amount of money will be required.
The Sui gas line between Peshawar-Rawalpindi and Rawalpindi-Kohat will also sink in the dam and the fertile lands of Mardan-Swabi and Nowshera known for yielding good tobacco, sugarcane and maize will become water-logging due to higher under-ground water table. These crops earn a lot of foreign exchange for the country and if the land is water-logged, we can no more expect good crops, let alone revenue from them.
Moreover the fertile land (Dhoda and Kharmatoo) of district Kohat will also be water-logged. These areas provide fruit and vegetables not only to the Kohat division but also to Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The inhabitants of the low lying ares on both sides of rivers Sindh, Sawan, Kabul and Tui will have to be shifted and given new houses and lands for settlement. These inhabitants are in lakhs and this will incur a heavy expenditure.
The main aim of the Dam as described by the consultant was:
- To produce more electricity.
- To act as a water reservoir.
Another negative point is that all the expenditure will be made in foreign currency where as it will be recovered in Pakistani rupees. This way, Pakistan will have to spend a large sum of foreign exchange with compound interest.
If the aim of the Kalabagh dam is to produce electricity and to store water, then it can be achieved by constructing small dams on river Sindh at Ghazi Barotha and Bhasha near Tarbela dam. In this way the main transmission line from Tarbela will be readily available for Bhasha and Ghazi Barotha, and money will be saved. At Ghazi Barotha and Bhasha, all three main bridges and roads links, Peshawar, Kohat and Talagang with Rawalpindi, need not be reconstructed saving an otherwise unnecessary expenditure. The Sui gas lines and the fertile lands of Mardan, Swabi and Nowshera as well as Kohat will be saved.
Above all, the three small provinces are deadly against this dam, where as there is no opposition to the construction of Bhasha dam and Ghazi Barotha dam.
We must maintain our national unity at all cost and must not forget the Dhaka debacle. We must respect the public opinion as well as save the scarce foreign exchange and realise the objective "self sufficiency through electricity" by not constructing the Kalabagh but Ghazi Barotha and Bhasha dams.