Water issue between In dia and Pakistan is a serious matter and needs attention of the policy makers, as India is trying to use water as a weapon againstPakistan. Recent developments indicate that India is resorting to devious methods since it has completed some mega projects on River Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. In this context a comprehensive report published by an English daily presents an extremely depressing state of affairs for Pakistan as India usurps Pakistani share of water. The report also referred to the criminal negligence of previous Pakistani governments and authorities in the face of extraordinary challenges posed by Indian machinations. India openly violated Indus Water Treatyshowing utter disregard to the rights of Pakistan; however Pakistan’s water administration failed to pursue the matter diligently with the result that India benefited from UN mediators’ verdicts.
According to experts, there would be 30% deficit of water in Indus River and 20% in Jhelum River during the Kharif season every year. Apart from water thievery by India through construction of controversial dams, prolonged drought during the winter and mismanagement of water resources are the causes behind the looming water crisis. The nation has recently witnessed Thar tragedy where scores of children have died and hundreds of thousands residents are suffering due to drought. If large reservoirs like Diamer-Bhasha are not constructed on war-footing, other parts of Pakistan could also be affected by the drought. It is criminal negligence on the part of our successive governments that they have not been able to build any major reservoir after Mangla and Tarbela whose storage capacity is shrinking due to silt each passing day.
The main argument against Kalabagh dam is that it will result in disharmony among the provinces. But how could we ignore the reality that our four provinces are desperately calling for sufficient water to cultivate their lands and are suspicious of each other on the distribution of water? Will it not lead to disharmony? We have reached a situation where not one or two but a series of dams can save our lands from turning into deserts. How disturbing it would be for our farmers to see their lands uncultivated due to water shortage in a situation when 40-42 million acre feet water of Indus River goes waste in the sea annually, simply because we have no major dam to save this water. India on the other hand continues with its plans to construct 60 dams on Pakistani rivers on the pretext that Pakistan is not constructing dams to store water.
In addition to Kashmir dispute, the Indus River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan for about six decades. Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries together make up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. Dams and canals, built in order to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation, have dried up stretches of the Indus River. There is a perception that this is being done under well thought-out strategy to render Pakistan’s link-canal system redundant, destroy agriculture of Pakistan, which is its mainstay, and turn Pakistan into a desert. Using its clout in Afghanistan, India had succeeded in convincing the Karzai regime to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama Hydroelectric Project using 0.5MAF of Pakistan water. It had offered technical assistance for the proposed project, which would have serious repercussions on the water flow in River Indus.
Apart from India’s river diversion plan, Pakistanis leadership also failed to construct large reservoirs during the last thirty years to meet the growing food requirements of ever-increasing population. Today, agricultural sector contributes 24 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); two-third of population living in rural areas depends on it; absorbs more than 50 per cent of the labour force and provides the base for 75 per cent of exports in the form of raw materials and value-added products. In the past, there have been wars between the countries over religions, usurpation of territories and control of resources including oil. In view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the future wars could be fought over water. One does not have to be an agricultural scientist to know that water is indispensableto agriculture.
It is a critical input into agriculture of a country especially when it is situated in an arid or semi-arid zone. Loss of storage capacity due to sedimentation in Tarbela and Mangla Dams is causing serious drop even for existing agricultural production. Food shortages and energy shortfall has already blighted Pakistan with the result that industry in all the provinces has also been adversely impacted. Anyhow, the construction of Bhasha Dam along with other dams is vital not only for our survival but also for enhancing the agricultural output and for increasing overall industrial productivity. In 2006, at the time of ground-breaking ceremony of Diamer-Bhasha dam, the cost was estimated at $13 billion, whereas in 2000 it was $6.5 billion and now it is around $15 billion. If its construction is further delayed on one pretext or another, the cost will become prohibitive.
Successful completion of the Diamer-Bhasha dam would help develop agriculture and also generate cheap energy for industrial development. The plus point is that the Bhasha Dam will eliminate flood hazards to a great extent and will reduce sedimentation in Tarbela reservoir, thereby improving the storage capacity and power output at Tarbela. However, Pakistan should also look for the unconventional sources of energy to meet 21st century’s needs. Many countries have benefited from sprinkler and drip irrigation distributed through pressurized plastic pipes. This approach has enabled Israel to irrigate the desert. And this system can enable Pakistan to triple the irrigated area with its existing water resources and avoid water scarcity. Dasu hydro-electric project will produce more than 4000 mega watt, but the problem of water storage would remain, as it is run of river project. Therefore, construction of Bhasha dam should not be delayed in any case.