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Ullah Awan

OP-ED OPINION PAKISTAN

Water woes of Pakistan –


Planning ahead – Hafeez
Ullah Awan
Hafeez Ullah Awan - September 26, 2018

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Hafeez Ullah Awan |

Historical Perspective

Pakistan has been blessed by nature with abundant


water resources. River Indus with its tributaries forms
one of the largest irrigation basins in the world
sustaining the agriculture in the two most populated
provinces of Punjab and Sind. The agriculture sector in
Pakistan not only provides employment to more than
50% of the labor force in Pakistan but also provides
food security to its 220 million population besides being
a major contributor to its economy and exports.
Agriculture thus is the lifeline for the people of Pakistan
and water is the lifeline for agriculture and therefore a
guarantee for a sustainable economic future of
Pakistan.

At the time of independence in 1947, Pakistan inherited


one of the largest irrigation systems in the world built
by the British. This system was split into two parts due
to the partition of Punjab creating a water-sharing
dispute between India and Pakistan. This dispute was
finally resolved by the World Bank sponsored and
guaranteed “Indus Basin Water Treaty” between the
two countries in 1960. Under the treaty, Pakistan was
given full rights over the use of waters of three western
rivers i.e Indus, Jhelum and Chenab while India was
given same rights on the use of waters of rivers Ravi,
Beas, and Sutlej.

The basis of the report is the annual per person


availability of water which has drastically
decreased from 5600 CUM in 1947 to 1000
CUM currently. This situation has put
Pakistan in the category of ‘water scarce’
countries.

In the wake of the Indus Basin Water Treaty, Pakistan


undertook a major effort to develop its irrigation
systems in the 60’s by constructing two major Dams at
Mangla on Jhelum river and Tarbela on Indus river
which was commissioned in 1967 and 1974
respectively. These two dams not only provided much-
needed storage of water of around 13 MAF but also
provided cheap electricity to the tune of around 3000
MWs. Eight major link canals with a number of new
barrages were also constructed to transfer surplus
waters of rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to the areas
in central and southern Punjab which were adversely
affected by the stoppage of water flow in rivers Ravi,
Sutlej and Beas.

Recent History

A study was carried out by WAPDA in late 70’s and


early 80’s to look for potential sites at Indus river
where large storage dams and run of the river projects
could be constructed and a number of such sites were
identified. Considering the financial and technical
suitability, Kalabagh Dam site was considered to be
most appropriate. This was the only site which could
store waters of Indus, Kabul and Swat rivers, was
easily accessible, was suitable for providing water to
southern districts of the then NWFP and had adequate
water storage and power generation potential.

Read more: FM stresses arbitration for resolution of


Indo-Pak water dispute

Unfortunately, however, this project became


controversial due to strong opposition from not only
political circles in Sind and NWFP but also from some
technical experts from these two provinces. Any
discussion on the merits of the objections from Sind
and presently KPK provinces is not within the scope of
this paper. Suffice it to say that some of these concerns
are genuine and must be addressed but largely it is a
result of mistrust between the provinces which is most
unfortunate.

The Current Debate

The current debate on the need for construction of


large water reservoirs has been triggered by a report
by PCRWR predicting a severe water shortage in the
country by the year 2025. The basis of the report is the
annual per person availability of water which has
drastically decreased from 5600 CUM in 1947 to 1000
CUM currently. This situation has put Pakistan in the
category of ‘water scarce’ countries. It must, however,
be clarified that this decrease is not primarily due to an
overall reduction in the quantity of water in our rivers
but is mainly due to around 6 times increase in
population, from around 35 million in 1947 to 220
million currently.

There are no two opinions regarding the need


to construct adequate water storage reservoirs
but we have to look at the best options
available which are financially and technically
feasible and are least controversial.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan after taking notice of


this alarming situation has ordered the construction of
Diamir Bhasha Dam at Indus river and Mohmand Dam
at Swat river without any further delay and has also
constituted a fund for this purpose where people have
been asked to donate generously to arrange to fund for
these projects. The government has also fully endorsed
the initiative of the Supreme Court and has urged all
Pakistanis, in a country and abroad, to donate
generously for these vital national projects. An attempt
to fully comprehend the issues involved in the “Dams
debate” is being made in the subsequent paragraphs to
arrive at the most suitable short-term solution to avert
the impending water crises in the country.

Why Large Dams are Necessary

Our rivers are mainly fed through the glacial melt,


snowmelt, and monsoon rains. All of these events
occur in the summer season. The river flows are
therefore highly variable during the year with almost
85% of the flow occurring in just 4 months (June to
September) while remaining 15% flow occurs in the
remaining 8 months of the year. This obviously results
in the abundant availability of water in Kharif (summer)
season and scarcity of water in the Rabi (winter)
season.

Read more: Can India and Pakistan cooperate on


water?

The surplus water available in the 4 summer months,


therefore, needs to be stored in reservoirs to be
subsequently made available for Rabi crops. The
storage capacity of Tarbela Dam is reducing due to
silting up and there is an urgent need to have an
alternative storage built soon to ensure food security
for our population. It is emphasized here that the
decisions involving the construction of large water
reservoirs are very complex in nature as these
decisions involve very important financial, technical,
environmental and social issues. Such decisions should
never be taken on the basis of emotionalism alone. It
is therefore imperative to seriously analyze the various
options available for a short to medium term solution
to the impending water crises.

The way Forward

It should be appreciated that large Dams like Diamir


Bhasha requiring a colossal financial outlay of around
1600 billion rupees (including a huge amount of foreign
exchange) cannot be constructed solely with public
donations alone. There are no two opinions regarding
the need to construct adequate water storage
reservoirs but we have to look at the best options
available which are financially and technically feasible
and are least controversial. Before these options are
considered, it would be appropriate to discuss the
salient features of following relevant dams to arrive at
the best possible option;

1. Mohmand Dam

Location: Near Munda in Mohmand Agency (Malakand


Range) at Swat River 37 Km North East of Peshawar

Live/useable Storage Capacity: 0.70 MAF

Power Generation Capacity: 740 MWs

Current Estimated Cost: 2.5 Billion USD (300 Billion


PKR)

Availability of International Funding: Yes

Construction Period: 5-6 Years

Linkage to National Grid: Easy

Canal Diversion: Not included but it will provide


additional water in a lean season for an operation of
Munda Head Works located immediately downstream of
proposed Mohmand Dam.

Current Status: Detailed Design in progress and can


be completed in a short time if the required funding is
made available.

2. Diamir-Bhasha Dam

Location: Diamir District in Gilgit Baltistan at Indus


River (Power House in Kohistan District KPK)

Live/Useable Storage Capacity: 6.5 MAF

Power Generation Capacity: 4500 MWs

Current Estimated Cost: 15 Billion USD (1600 Billion


PKR)

Availability of International Funding: No

Construction Period: 10-12 Years

Linkage to National Grid: Difficult due to a long


distance over mountainous terrain

Canal Diversion: Not Included

Current Status: Detailed Design completed, Land


Acquisition in Progress, 100 Billion PKR allocated in
current PSDP. Will require re-alignment of around 100
Kms of KKH.

3. Kalabagh Dam

Location: Mianwali District in Punjab at a combined


flow of Indus & Kabul Rivers

Live/Useable Storage Capacity: 6.1 MAF

Power Generation Capacity: 3600 MWs

Current Estimated Cost: 8 Billion USD (900 Billion


PKR)

Availability of International Funding: Yes

Construction Period: 7-8 Years

Linkage to National Grid: Easy

Canal Diversion: One canal on right Bank included to


irrigate areas in southern districts of KPK.

Current Status: Detailed Design completed and some


preliminary Works also completed by WAPDA since
long. However further work stopped due to opposition
from mainly Sindh and KPK. WAPDA had agreed to
reduce the height of the Dam by 10 feet in 2003 to
mitigate concerns regarding flooding in Nowshehra &
Swabi but opposition to the construction of this Dam
has not subsided.

4. Dasu Dam

Location: Kohistan District in KPK at Indus River (Run


of the River Project)

Live/Useable Storage Capacity: 1.14 MAF

Power Generation Capacity: 4320 MWs in two


stages (2160 MWs in each stage)

Current Estimated Cost: Total 6.2 Billion USD (750


Billion PKR), Stage I: 4.2 Billion USD (500 Billion PKR),
Stage II: 2 Billion USD (250 Billion PKR)

Availability of International Funding: Yes

Construction Period: Stage I: 4-5 Years, Stage II: 2-


3 Years

Linkage to National Grid: Moderately difficult due to


mountainous terrain

Canal Diversion: Not Included

Current Status: A contract worth 180 Billion PKR


already awarded to a Chinese firm for the construction
of Dam structure & Spillway gates etc. Funding
available by a consortium of Banks including World
Bank for Stage I.

5. Akhori Dam

Location: Attock District in Punjab. This is an offline


storage based on Indus river over the spill in flood
season. Surplus water from Tarbela will be diverted to
the reservoir location through a 60,000 cusecs capacity
canal. The stored water will be released back to Indus
during periods of need for Rabi crops.

Live/Useable Storage Capacity: 7.0 MAF

Power Generation Capacity: 600 MWs

Current Estimated Cost: 3 Billion USD (350 Billion


PKR)

Availability of International Funding: Yes

Construction Period: 5-6 Years

Linkage to National Grid: Easy

Canal Diversion: Not Included

Current Status: Preliminary design completed. An


EPC contract can be awarded for its construction. No
major diversion works (Tunnels) are required at Indus
river as water released through Tarbela spillway will be
channelized through the proposed canal to the Dam
site.

Parameters Governing the Formulation of


Options Available

Before going on to the discussion on available options,


it would be appropriate to define the parameters which
should form the basis of these options. These
parameters are as under;

a. PCRWR report which has triggered the current


debate on the construction of large water reservoirs
has mentioned that water situation is likely to become
critical by the year 2025. Any option should, therefore,
be capable of providing additional water storage
capacity by 2025.

b. The options are based on the premise that 14-15


MAF surplus water is available in the Indus basin
system for additional storage.

c. The present power generation capacity from all


sources (hydel, thermal, wind, solar & nuclear) in
Pakistan is around 32,000 MWs in summer peak
season. The current peak demand for electricity in
summers is around 24,500 MWs. However, due to
capacity and other issues in the transmission &
distribution systems, peak supply of electricity during
this summer was around 18,000 MWs. Certain
measures are in progress presently to remedy this
situation and it is surmised that peak supply of around
25,000 MWs will be available in next 2-3 years through
improvements in transmission and distribution
systems. Certain power generation projects are also
currently under execution (including operationalizing
the full output of Tarbela 4th Extension and Neelum
Jhelum Projects) which will add an additional 3000
MWs generation capacity in next 2-3 years. The dam
options are therefore based on water storage as
priority No.1 while electricity generation capacity has
been accorded second priority.

d. Mohmand Dam is a stand-alone project as it is


located at Swat river and there is no technical or
political objection from any quarters. This project,
therefore, must be part of all options.

Available Options

Based on the above basic parameters, available options


have been formulated which are described
subsequently as under;

a. Option 1

This option is based on a simultaneous


undertaking of construction of Kalabagh and
Mohmand These two projects can be completed by
the target year of 2025 if work is started without
any delay. The combined live storage and power
generation capacity of these two dams is 6.8 MAF
and 4340 MWs respectively. The total estimated cost
will be around 10.5 Billion USD (1200 Billion PKR)
which can be arranged through International
Financial Institutions. Power generated will be easily
linked to the national grid. Large areas in
Charsada/Mardan and D.I.Khan districts of KPK can
be directly irrigated upon completion of these two
projects. Additional water during Rabi season will be
available to southern Punjab and Sind through
waters of Kabul and Indus stored in Kalabagh dam.
There is however stiff opposition to the
construction of Kalabagh dam by KPK and Sind
provinces and national consensus on its construction
is not likely to be achieved any time soon.

b. Option 2

This option is based on a simultaneous


construction of Diamir-Bhasha (Dam portion
only) and Mohmand Since international funding for
construction of Diamir-Bhasha dam is not

forthcoming, raising 1600 Billion rupees for the full


execution of this project will be very difficult. It is
therefore proposed to construct only the dam portion
to allow storage of water while power generation
component will be added later on. The dam alone can
be constructed in 5-6 years at an estimated cost of 5
Billion USD (550 Billion PKR) which can be arranged
through annual PSDP and donations/issue of
investment bonds.

Upon completion of the two projects in next 5-6


years, the total available storage capacity will be 7.2
MAF while the power generation capacity of 740
MWs only will be available from Mohmand dam.
Some technical experts have however expressed
concerns on the location of Diamir-Bhasha dam
being an active seismic zone which poses a major
risk due to its considerable storage capacity. 100
Kms of KKH will also need to be re-aligned as
original alignment will be submerged in the lake
formed behind the dam.

c. Option 3

This option is based on the simultaneous


construction of Akhori Dam, Dasu Dam (Stage-I)
and Mohmand Dam. The contract for construction
of Dasu Dam component has already been awarded
and funding through a consortium of international
banks (including World Bank) is available. All three
dams can be completed in next 5-6 years at a cost
of around 11.7 Billion USD (1350 Billion PKR) out of
which 4.2 Billion USD (500 Billion PKR) is already
available while remaining can also be made
available through international donor funding (soft
loans).
The combined live storage and power generation
capacity of these three dams will be 8.84 MAF and
3700 MWs respectively. Although Dasu dam is also
located in a seismically active zone the risk is far
less than Diamir-Bhasha Dam, as it is a run of the
river project, its storage capacity is limited to the
maximum of 1.14 MAF only.

Recommendations & Conclusion

Based on the pros and cons of each of the above three


available options, OPTION 3 seems to be the most
suitable option due to its obvious advantages over
other two options and it is recommended for serious
consideration. It is the least controversial of the three
options available. It provides maximum potential for
storage of water and adequate power generation
capacity which can be augmented later by completing
stage II of Dassu and subsequently Kalabagh or
Diamir-Bhasha dams.

If 100 Billion rupees are allocated every year


for next 10 years (to be shared equally between
the federal and Punjab & Sind governments, it
will help us in saving around 20-25 MAF water
and improve the yield of our crops by about
25%-30%.

Construction of large Dams is essential to ensure


availability of water for our future needs. However, a
creation of additional water storage is part of the
supply side management only. At the same time, it is
imperative to manage the demand side of the water
(water usage) also with equal if not more vigorously.
This involves the reduction in wastage of water and
water conservation measures at all levels. This must
form part of our overall water management strategy.

93% of our present water usage is in the agriculture


sector only. The demand for water for industrial,
domestic and environmental preservation and
improvement is also growing side by side. There is
large scale wastage in our irrigation system due to
seepage in unlined canals and watercourses, uneven
crop fields and outdated irrigation methods. The total
wastage in our irrigation system is estimated at a
staggering 50-60 MAF. The per acre yield of our major
crops is also very low even in comparison to India.

Read more: Water scarcity making country a wasteland

It is therefore strongly recommended to immediately


plan and launch a 10 years water conservation plan to
include the lining of canals and watercourses to reduce
wastage through seepage which will also help in
eliminating the menace of water logging and salinity.
Laser levelling of our irrigated fields will help in
reducing water wastage. Centuries-old irrigation
methods must be discarded and modern techniques
like furrow irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and drip
irrigation should be encouraged. Per acre crop yields
should be enhanced by the use of improved seed
varieties, change in cropping patterns and better use of
pesticides and fertilizers.

These conservation measures should be undertaken by


the relevant provincial governments with the support of
the federal government. If 100 Billion rupees are
allocated every year for next 10 years (to be shared
equally between the federal and Punjab & Sind
governments, it will help us in saving around 20-25
MAF water and improve the yield of our crops by about
25%-30%. Undertaking of the 10 years water
conservation plan will also generate huge employment
opportunities, in particular in rural areas and will also
revitalize our industrial sector due to enhanced demand
for construction materials and modern agriculture
implements, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Engineer Hafeez Ullah Awan is an expert on water


issues. He writes on political, social and environmental
issues. The views expressed in this article are the
author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global
Village Space’s editorial policy.

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