کالاباغ ڈیم نامنظور

0 have signed. Let’s get to 100!


Why is Kalabagh Dam not Feasible:

• Politically Damaging:
The federal government's announcement of building
Kalabagh dam underscores fears of domination by Punjab province over small provinces and this has serious repercussion for the Federation. Three provincial assemblies (Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP) as we as the Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power vetoed the proposal.
• Not Enough Water to Dam:
WAPDA bases its support for Kalabagh dam on water
availability figures which are highly suspect if not outright incorrect. There is evidence to suggest that there may not be enough water to fill the Kalabagh
• Shortage of Cultivable Land:
Water availability notwithstanding, there is evidence to prove that additional land for substantive increases in food production in cultivable areas is not available.
• More Water Logging and Salinity:
Higher water retention in the Indus Basin system risks aggravating an already massive problem of water logging and salinity.
• Displacement and High Resettlement Cost:
WAPDA's past record of rehabilitation and resettlement of affectees is highly unsatisfactory. There is no evidence to suggest that the Kalabagh experience will be any different. Also, the massive expenditure incurred during rehabilitation of affectees will result in Kalabagh being economically unattractive.
• Damage Coastal Ecology:
Kalabagh will result in coastal ecosystem degradation, adding to mangrove and species loss and impoverishing communities which rely on the ecosystem's resources.
• Ineffective Flood Control:
Historical evidence suggests dams on the Indus have not resulted in better flood control.
• Other Options:
De-silting Tarbela seems to be more economically, socially and environmentally viable.

• Water Availability:

The question whether enough water is available to warrant the construction of KBD has generated considerable controversy. Are there, as claimed by WAPDA, adequate surface flows to justify the Project? WAPDA itself has sown confusion by citing two average flow figures: 123 MAF and 143 MAF. The first calculation is based on a 64-year period (1922-1996) and includes both wet and dry cycles. The second estimate is based on a much shorter wet cycle period of 22 years (1977-1994) and appears to have been manipulated to justify Kalabagh. Since the total requirement (inclusive of the additional allocation to 12 MAF under the 1991 a clear short fall of 20 MAF. This means Kalabagh may remain dry every 4 out of 4 years. Despite WAPDA's claims, many questions remain unanswered. Potential water availability needs to be reviewed more comprehensively while taking system losses into account. It is not clear whether Kalabagh representative additionally or a replacement for lost storage capacity. Thus the claim that a million hectares will become
cultivable thanks to Kalabagh will also remain spurious in the face of controversial water availability.

Food Security:

Crop production under Kalabagh can increase if its waters are used to irrigate new land, to enhance cropping intensity on existing land, or to increase yield. Reports of the NCANCS refute WAPDA's claim regarding Kalabagh irrigating approximately a million additional hectares of barren land thus bringing Pakistan closer to wheat self sufficiency. According to these reports, the amount of cultivable land available is nearly matched by the amount already cultivated thus leaving little scope for expansion. Between 1952-1997, about 80 percent of the
increase in total cropped area was due to extensive cultivation. Since then, this proportion has fallen dramatically with double cropping accounting for the bulk of the increase. These reports suggest that in addition to the water constraint, a very tangible land constraint exists as well. The other two options for increasing crop production are cropping intensity and crop yield
enhancement. Both are water dependent and have been used to establish an a prior justification for Kalabagh. Clearly water is the constraining factor in achieving these yield increases but a critical choice needs to be made here. Should one opt for additional water or can the same results be achieved through equitable distribution and improved water use efficiency? The preferred choice would be to use existing water efficiently and on making
necessary institutional changes for its equitable distribution. Food security is likely to become a demand driven problem rather than a supply constrained one.

Water Logging and Salinity:

Kalabagh will result in higher water retention thus aggravating an already massive problem of water logging and salinity. Kalabagh will contribute to this problem not only in its immedia te environs but also where new irrigation infrastructure is to be situated. The incremental land degradation is likely to be most pronounced in Sindh, reflecting the north-south land gradient. It may be noted that water logging is higher in Sindh in comparative terms and that it has been increasing over time against a declining trend for the Punjab. The numbers for salinity also indicates its highest incidence in Sindh. Also, according to latest data available, almost 30 percent of the area within the canal command area in Sind is affected by salinity as compared to 20 percent in Punjab.

Thus attempts to increase crop production by tapping new sources of water could be party selfdefeating thanks to the soil degradation which results from it. The massive 25-year National Drainage Programme ($780 million) has been launched to cope with the water logging and salinity problem, which is a result of higher water retention in the system. Kalabagh will only add to this problem.

Displacement and Resettlement Cost:

From their very inception, the construction of large dams in Pakistan has given rise to major problems in land acquisition, rehabilitation, and compensation. The initial attitude of authorities towards affectees has historically been one of dismissal and neglect. Project Affected Persons (PAPs) are seldom involved in decision-making which affects their immediate and future lives. An atmosphere of helplessness and insecurity prevails in an environment where information is not shared and decision-makers are unwilling to explain how the project will affect the livelihood of those compelled to sacrifice their interests for the sake of an intangible national interest. Benefits usually accrue to the more powerful and affluent PAPs having access to information which is used for profitable speculation. Experience of large dams in Pakistan leads one to conclude that the state lacks the institutions, the legal framework and the sensitivity which would assure PAPs a better standard of living. Of the 100,000 Tarbela Dam affectees and the 80,000 Mangla Dam affectees, many still await compensation even though these projects have been generating profits for the past 15 to 20 years.

Previous experience suggests that the Kalabagh rehabilitation and compensation will not be any better. The government's fiscal constraints and the already outstanding payments to Tarbela and unresolved claims of Gazai-Brotha affectees (e.g. fishermen etc) leaves little reason for the approximately 100,000 to 200,00 KBD affectees to hope for anything better. The total cost of Rs. 5 billion allocated for resettlement in the case of Kalabagh is a gross underestimation, given that the number of affectees is much larger than in previous Dam projects in Pakistan. For instance in the case of Ghazi Barotha, the total cost of land compensation is close to Rs. 5 billion whereas there were only 20,000 affectees to be
compensated. In the case of Kalabagh besides land compensation, the cost of close to 47 model and extended villages which have been planned for affectees would entail a heavy cost. If all these costs are taken into account the total project cost would be more than what WAPDA claims. Moreover, given the reluctance that multilateral agencies are showing in funding large dams ever since the World Commission for Dams has started scrutinizing large dams projects, the government may have to borrow from the commercial financial markets to finance Kalabagh. This would further push up the cost of Kalabagh, making it a less attractive project.

Downstream Ecosystem Impacts:

The effects of reduced water outflows on the Indus delta ecosystem are already highly visible. The present level of silt discharge, estimated at 100 million tons per year, is a four-fold reduction from the original level before the rivers were dammed. The combination of salt water intrusion (as much as 30 km inland) and reduced silt and nutrient flows has changed the ecological balance of the delta and has resulted in the area of active growth of the delta being reduced from an original estimate of 2600 sq. km to about 260 sq. km. The mangroves have taken an exceptionally hard toll since their health is directly related to fresh water outflows to the sea. Releases below Kotri barrage average 34 MAF of which about 20 MAF
actually reach the mangroves in July- September period, the rest being lost to evaporation or diversions. According to the Sindh Forestry Department, about 27 MAF is required to maintain the existing 260,000 hectare of mangroves in reasonably healthy conditions; this is 7 MAF more than what is currently available. The Indus Water Accord intends to divert an additional 11 MAF for upstream dam construction, including Kalabagh, thus resulting in further reduction and aggravating an already critical situation. The hardest hit will be the community of about 100,000 people residing in coastal villages for whom the managroves are a vital source of livelihood providing fuel, fodder, fishing and grazing grounds. These communities already suffer from a denial of fishing rights since large stretches of the Indus have been closed and river resources exploited through contractual arrangements. Besides mangroves, the Indus dolphin (blind dolphin) and the palla fish are under threat of extinction whose impending loss signals the loss of a way of life. In view of these facts, the claim that the waters of the Indus are "wasted into the sea" can only be dismissed as an ill-informed rhetoric.

Flood Control:

Another myth firmly embedded in the minds of our planners is that large dams are the perfect flood prevention devices. The evidence for Pakistan shows otherwise; its large dams notwithstanding, there has been no reduction in the incidence and intensity of floods nor in the associated losses in lives, crops, livestock and infrastructure. There is no seeming pattern to the floods other than the fact that they could have coincided with wet cycles. In fact, the severity of flood impacts appears more prevalent after Tarbela and Mangla dams were constructed. Indeed river systems have a natural capacity for dealing with the threat of floods and the natural
processes emboided in them provide many benefits. Flood plains, wetlands, backwaters are commonly referred to as nature's sponges; they absorb excessive water and purify it so that it can be tapped during lean periods, and act as spawning grounds for fish and water fowl. The floods themselves replenish agricultural soils and communities living around these areas adapt to this natural rhythm and use its bounty to ensure and Mangla have merely disturbed the natural system by attempting to regulate the floods of the Indus.

NWFP's Concerns:

Despite lowering of the height of Kalabagh from 935 to 915 (Please check in WAPDA's glossy cover booklet or Engr. Iftikhar's report), political leaders and affected communities in the NWFP are not convinced by WAPDA's arguments in favour of the project. They are of the view that flooding could still cause damage despite construction of diskes around Nowshera. They believe that the construction of diskes would disturb the ecological balance and social life in the area. The Tarbela experience is still fresh in the minds of many people who have seen their lands being ruined by water logging after the reservoir was built at Tarbela. Moreover the poor
record of the government in terms of compensating the Tarbela affectees has made the people of the NWFP wary of promises made by WAPDA.


Noted South Asian water engineer, Ajaya Dixit, notes that "many of the storage projects in India were built after the British left but the technology should never have been transplanted blindly". This is because "the North American terrain and society where the model was developed is quite different from South Asia's and the rivers there carry less silt than the Himalayan torrents, the demography of water and electricity consumers itself was different, and the New World was hardly likely to see anti-dam activism when the native populations had been decimated". The Pakistani dam industry would be well advised to re-think their approach to large dams in view of this theory.

In addition to the above, a recent study carried out by TAMS-Wallingford (March 1998) shows that a de-silted Tarbela would yield the same irrigation benefits as Kalabagh but at one-seventh the cost in net present value terms. Even if a thermal power plant with capacity equivalent to Kalabagh were constructed, the cost would still be lower by one-third. The study concludes that the replacement of irrigation and energy benefits by constructing a new dam and reservoir downstream is feasible, but will be expensive, environmentally damaging, and socially harmful. One alternative option to construct new outlets at the Tarbela Dam which will enable sediment to be flushed from the reservoir". Based on computer simulations of sediment flows, the proposed Tarbela Action Plan suggests that if the reservoir level were raised to 1, 365 feet in 1998 and by 4 feet in each subsequent year, if the drawdown period were limited to a maximum of 15 days, if a rockfill underwater dike were constructed to protect intakes of tunnels 1-4 from sedimentation and if a flushing bypass were constructed which would be operated over a 30 day period then the estimated retention of 6 MAF is exactly what Kalabagh is designed to hold. Although flushing would reduce energy benefits, the long-term energy production potential of Ghazi-Barotha would be assured since it depends on a de-silted Tarbela. Moreover, purely financial and economic cost comparison also clearly favour Tarbela rehabilitation over Kala bagh. It has been estimated that we are presently losing three to four times the planned Kalabagh reservoir storage capacity is system losses in our extremely inefficient irrigation system. If these could be plugged we could ensure that water gets to the farm gate at a fraction of the cost of Kalabagh.


Kalabagh dam does not present itself as a win-win situation. Its viability is premised on water availability figures that are highly questionable. The land constraint precludes substantive increases in cultivable area, additional water notwithstanding. Crop yield increases based on additional water do not account more, higher doses of water are associated with high input use, which degrades both soil, and water quality. Using existing water more efficiently is clearly a better option. Hydel energy is not unequivocally cheaper, given the growing propensity to factor in displacement and environmental costs. Also, borrowing costs are likely to be higher as donors have indicated a clear preference for thermal power projects. Kalabagh would exacerbate ecosystem degradation, adding to mangrove and species losses and impoverishing communities, which depend on the ecosystem's resources. As an instrument of flood control Kalabagh is poorly supported by the historical evidence. In view of these facts, the option of implementing a sedimentation management project on Tarbela appears a clear winner on all grounds-financial, economic, social and environmental. In the long run we need to explore the development of alternative to big dams to meet our energy and irrigation needs such as wind and solar as far as energy needs are concerned, and the development of traditional small scale surface and underground irrigation systems.

Today: aslam is counting on you

aslam shaikh needs your help with “کالاباغ ڈیم نامنظور”. Join aslam and 11 supporters today.