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No new dam acceptable: Sindh leaders, technocrats

11 August, 2010

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KARACHI: Politicians and technocrats of Sindh have rejected the assertion that the Kalabagh Dam could have averted the destruction caused by the recent floods across the country.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had said on Monday that the deaths and destruction caused by the recent floods could have been avoided if the Kalabagh Dam had been built, and the government would build the dam if there were a political consensus over the issue.

“If the Kalabagh Dam had been built, the whole Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would have been destroyed,” Pakistan People’s Party member and Sindh Culture Minister Sassi Palejo said on Tuesday. She said no new dam or canal was acceptable to Sindh and the flood situation could only be handled through an improved irrigation system.

Rejecting the assertion, Sindh Abadgar Board President Abdul Majeed Nizamani said that supposedly around 30 million acre feet (MAF) of water reached downstream Kotri during the current floods. “The Kalabagh Dam would have stored only six MAF of water, meaning some 24 MAF water would still have reached Kotri even if the dam was there,” he added.

Nizamani said the Kalabagh Dam was not feasible on technical grounds as well, because the country had witnessed a high-flood after the gap of around 14 years.

According to records since 1923, we have experienced such years after every five-year period “when we have even been unable to fill our existing dams even”, he said. “Why should we spend a huge amount of Rs 20 billion on a project which will rarely benefit the country,” he asked.

Nizamani said the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have also stated that the destruction caused by current floods would have been 10 times more had the Kalabagh Dam been built. He said floodwater would have flown back in case the dam had been constructed.

“If we accept Punjab’s claim that it would not have flown back, then why has Punjab planned to build walls up to Kabul River to save Nowshera,” he added.

Nizamani said those who support the Kalabagh Dam should keep in mind that the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) had rejected the dam in 1996 on technical grounds, and the Water and Power Development Authority has not challenged IRSA’s decision despite the passage of 14 years.

“It is a conventional dam, whereas, we need carryover dams in the country that would also be beneficial for the lower riparian,” he asserted.

Sindh Assembly Opposition Leader Jam Madad Ali said talking of Kalabagh Dam would create rifts among the provinces.

Meanwhile, Leftist and nationalist parties have criticised the idea that the current devastation by monsoon floods could have been averted had the Kalabagh Dam been built.

Commenting on views expressed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that Kalabagh Dam would have saved the country from the devastation, the leaders of various parties said Gilani’s comments only hurt the flood victims more, especially those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

Workers’ Party Pakistan President Abid Hassan Manto told our sources that the statement had hurt the people of Sindh and KP and the government was only sparking a controversy during these times of crisis.

He said the government had failed to get to the actual point, which is that they should have built other dams, like Diameer-Bhasha, instead of talking about the disputed Kalabagh project.

Manto said that it was not a question of whether we have Kalabagh Dam or not, but whether the government was properly working on the agreed power projects.

Labour Party Pakistan spokesman Farooq Tariq told our sources that it had been decided in joint meetings and reports in the past that Kalabagh Dam would have caused massive problems for the people of Sindh and KP, and would only have benefited Punjab.

He said that it was clearly stated in the GN Abbassi report that the country faced floods every seven years, while severe shortage of water was observed for the remaining six years, which meant that the remaining water could only be stored in Kalabagh Dam to serve the canals in Punjab, while depriving farmers of Sindh of their right to water.

Tariq further added that it had also been scientifically proven that bigger dams posed more risks of floods across the world and the world was now focusing on smaller dams.

He said a dam like Kalabagh was not adequate to control the current level of floods, as it would have posed a greater threat to the people living around it in case of an overflow or damage.

Tariq said the dam would have also jeopardised the whole city of Nowshera, while creating more problems for the residents of KP.

He said the Labour Party Pakistan would not let the country’s politicians run the Kalabagh Dam construction campaign at the cost of the people of other provinces.

Farooq added that the dam was bound to hurt Sindh, especially its Katcha areas.

He said the government should think about working on projects of smaller dams, which are safe, non-controversial and take far lesser time to be built.

End.

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