ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Minister for Water Resources Ali Zafar suspects foreign involvement in the opposition to the construction of the Kalabagh Dam (KBD) and has asked the incoming government to work on building a consensus on it.
Speaking at a news conference, the minister said India was watching Pakistan’s inaction over the construction of the KBD — as well as other dams — and was violating river rights. He said the anti-KBD conferences arranged abroad were better organized and seemed far better funded than the seminars held in Pakistan.
He said India constructed the Kishanganga Hydropower Project in violation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and then even went on to alter the project design after sharing it with Pakistan. The minister said that New Delhi was also planning to begin working on the Ratle Hydropower project as well as other dams, violating the treaty.
He said he had studied the Ratle Hydropower Project and Pakistan’s case against its construction was strong. Pakistan wanted the World Bank to constitute an arbitration court on the issue and it would be an important challenge for the incoming government to compel the WB to fulfil its responsibility.
In response to a question, the minister said the reversal of the IWT was neither possible nor in the interest of Pakistan but good news is that China, Turkey, Russia and many other nations understand Pakistan’s case against India and the World Bank would have to constitute a court of arbitration.
Mr Zafar said that following the IWT, India had managed to build about 400 dams and reservoirs on the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Bias and Ravi — while Pakistan had not even managed to build the KBD. Even the 15.1 million acre feet (MAF) storage from Tarbela and Mangla dams dropped to 13MAF.
He said it was strange that the KBD, which was part of the 1960 plan, had not been built so far due to lack of consensus among the provinces and disagreements that kept on increasing over the time. But it is bizarre and extremely unfortunate that we haven’t even been able to construct other such reservoirs and dams.
“It (KBD) is very important. It is life — and it should be built as a priority,” the caretaker minister said, adding Pakistan had been declared a ‘water scarce country’ because its per capita water availability had dropped to 1,000 cubic metres.
He said the caretaker government had considered advice from international experts, and after discussions with various domestic departments, finalised a 10-point reform package for Pakistan’s water priorities.
He said lining of the canals could save up to 6.5MAF — that is almost equal to any of the two existing dams, and that is much cheaper than building one.
Mr Zafar deplored that Pakistan was still employing 200-year-old agriculture techniques including mechanisms to manage flooding.
The minister said it was ironic that nations were irrigating their deserts with modern techniques, while Pakistan was wasting even clean drinking water.
He said that the top priority for the new government for the water sector reforms should be the construction of the Kalabagh, Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams. He said that efforts must be made to resolve critical issues such as compensation, resettlement and the demarcation of the power house of the Diamer-Basha dam.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily