Construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam at main Bed of the River Indus will not only slow down the gravity flow but will also bring an absolute reduction in natural flow of Indus River water and silt. This will have adverse effect on not only the agriculture economy of Sindh but devastate further the Indus Delta
By Mukhtiar Ali Erri
Facts about Diamer-Bhasha Dam
The site of this Dam is located at Indus River on the border area of KPK and Gilgit-Baltistan that’s why this dame has been given with a joint name i.e. Diamer-Bhasha to make agreed both the provinces. It is located at a distance of some 40 km from the city of Chilas, which is the headquarter town of Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan. Some 95% to 96% storage area of Diamer-Bhasha Dam belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan and remaining 5% to 4% area belongs to KPK province. And proposed power plant on this dam will be fixed on KPK side as the site for power plant has been identified and passed through feasibility report.
This dam cannot be filled with normal flow of Indus River. In usual circumstances it has total storage capacity of 8,107,132 acre ft. water which is almost 200,000 acre-ft. water more than Kala Bagh Dam. On the one hand Indus River carries 243 cubic km waters during a normal year while on the other Diamer-Bhasha Dam possesses a storage capacity of 60.75 cubic km waters which constitutes about 25% of the total flowing water of the Indus River in year.
Drawbacks of the Dam
Now let’s have a look at the drawbacks of the Dam through which lower riparian of Indus River like Sindh and Balochistan; particularly Sindh will be suffering a lot. Any dam on Indus River which is not in control of Sindh will be devastating and destructive for the lands and lives in Sindh. The list of loses to Sindh through which Sindh will be going through is lengthier. Following are few impacts and facts of this Dam, if once this dam is constructed and made functional on Indus River.
1- According to the Demand and Design of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam and planning of the government 20% to 25% of total flowing water of Indus River will annually be taken and stored in this dam. Disclosed figures are 20% to 25% of total flowing water while in actual will be more than 35% of total water of Indus River will be stored as that has been practiced by federal governments in case of Tabela Dam.
2- The administration of this dam has been given to Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA): a solely Pakistan government-owned entity monopolized by Punjab province, which mainly works for Punjab rather than federation, as it keeps double standard in water and power distribution of Tarbela Dam for last 40 years.
3- Water stored in Diamer-Bhasha Dam will primarily be used for production of power (electricity) rather than supplied for irrigation.
4- Due to terrain topology and mountainous geography of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam no any inland waterway or canal can be built from this dam which can pass stored water from dam to distant irrigated areas of the country like barrage areas of Sindh and Balochistan.
5- Construction of this dam at main Bed of the River Indus will not only slow down the gravity flow of water in River but it will bring an absolute reduction in natural flow of Indus River and silt in floor of the River which will eventually reduce river’s total capacity of carrying waters in days of hyper floods. And at the same time in periods of less water in country, available water in river cannot be passed to lower riparian of the Indus River.
6- If Indus River’s bed overwhelmed with water brought silt, due to reduced gravity flow, it will block river’s main deck and chances of destructions in periods of floods will be increased.
7- The change in flow of downstream Indus will directly damage Sindh and Balochistan, but Sindh will suffer at peak. Sindh is the basket bread of Pakistan, which contributes 40% to 50% of agricultural production in total national agricultural production of Pakistan.
8- Due to construction of this useless giant dam the water flow of Indus River at its last three barrages (Gudu Barrage, Sukkur Barrage and Kotri Barrage located in Sindh) will significantly reduce which will directly damage the rice crop in Sindh which is highly water dependent crop on the planet and perhaps the major exporting agro product of Pakistan. So this will shock socio economic life of not only Sindh, but Pakistan as whole.
9- According to Indus River System Authority (IRSA) 1991-92 agreement made with communal concerns of all four provinces, the Indus water was distributed with this proportion: Sindh 37%, Punjab 37% Balochistan 12% and KPK 14%. Apart from that Sindh was instructed to supply 5% of its share to Karachi metropolis and 7% to Indus Delta. This 37% share was given to Sindh only for 4 years from 1992 to 1996. After the establishment and operations of Thul Greater Canal constructed at Indus River near Kotmithan in Punjab, the share of Sindh was reduced from 37% to 19%, and since then Sindh has been getting 19% of total water of Indus River from IRSA.
10- This reduction in water share of Sindh has almost destroyed all sorts of flora and fauna in Indus Delta. It is estimated that since 1995 to date 200,000 acres of irrigated land of Thatta, Badin and Sajawal districts have been eaten up by salty waters of Arabian Sea and this process is becoming rapid year by year due to less supply of river waters downstream to delta.
11- The stored water of this dam will be utilized by Punjab and KPK provinces, but mainly by Punjab provinces at optimum through its already constructed barrages and dam at Indus River from Attock to Multan like Taunsa Barrage on Indus River, Chashma Barrage on Indus River, Ghazi-Barotha Hydropower House on Indus River, Jinnah Barrage on Indus River and Tarbela Dam on Indus River.
Possible solutions to overcome water shortages in Pakistan
1- Government of Pakistan should utilize available funds in construction of small dams throughout the country subject to their suitability and availability of resources and utilization benefits of water, rather than constructing such a giant dam which costs almost half of the annual budget of the country for the sack of interest of a single unit of the country.
2- Water wastages should be reduced through revamping and repairing canals, macro and micro water streams throughout the country.
3- Water theft must be stopped
4- Government of Pakistan should apply and implement holistic policy of population control and educate general public about the disadvantages of increasing population.
Mukhtiar Ali Erri is Lecturer, Department of Business Administration, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Nawabshah, Sindh. He can be reached at [email protected]