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Fall out of Baglihar Dam




  • The construction of Baglihar dam will not only deprive Pakistan of 321,000 acre feet of water during the three months of Rabi season and will have far reaching consequences on agriculture, as well. The 450MW dam would cause serious setback to wheat production in Punjab, the biggest wheat producing province. Non-availability of irrigation water during Rabi would significantly reduce the yield or may cause complete crop …

     

    The construction of Baglihar dam will not only deprive Pakistan of 321,000 acre feet of water during the three months of Rabi season and will have far reaching consequences on agriculture, as well. The 450MW dam would cause serious setback to wheat production in Punjab, the biggest wheat producing province.
    Non-availability of irrigation water during Rabi would significantly reduce the yield or may cause complete crop failures if India goes to the maximum capacity in blocking water in times of crop needs. The yield reductions would expand the supply-demand gap forcing the country to import the commodity to meet domestic requirements. In the previous year, around 1.5 million tons of wheat was imported. Increased imports would be an additional burden on the national exchequer. Besides, the construction of dam would adversely affect the 13 million acres of irrigated land at surroundings areas of Chenab and Ravi rivers. Farmers would face water shortage during the Rabi season which may cause shifting of cropping pattern by replacing the low water-delta with high delta crops. This will affect the economic condition of the farming community.
    Emphasis is being placed on improving the productivity through dissemination of modern inputs. However, without ensuring water availability the response of modern inputs such as improved seed, fertilizer etc., would not be significant. As on the completion of dam, Pakistan would receive 7-8 thousand cusec less water per day in the Rabi season which would not be enough to improve crop productivity. India plans to operate the dam at maximum capacity by 2007. Pakistan’s concern and objection to Baglihar dam construction is justified. However, the design, storage capacity, height and the gates of spillways are the real causes of concern. Pakistan has, therefore, termed the construction of dam as gross violation of the Indus Water Treaty as accordingly, Pakistan has the right to use waters of the three eastern rivers including the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. On the other hand, the right to use waters of three eastern rivers namely Ravi, Beas and Sutlej was given to India. But India started construction of dams on river Chenab in violation of the treaty and has already constructed the Wuller and Salal barrages on this river. Moreover, India has plans to construct 16 to 17 dams on river Chenab and six to seven on Jhelum. Pakistan cannot afford further loss of water of those rivers which belong to it. It has, already sacrificed 27 million-acre feet of water to India under the Indus Waters Treaty. How can it agree on Baglihar dam on river Chenab.
    Though water is vital for our agro-based economy but there has been shortage for last many years thus playing havoc with the agriculture. The mere 1.4 per cent agriculture growth in 2003-04 and 4.1 per cent in the following year have been far below than the other sectors. Among other factors, water shortage has been the main factor. In the given scenario, it is difficult for the country to comprise on the construction of Baglihar dam that would enable India to obstruct the whole flow of the river Chenab.Pakistan’s grievances are not extra-judicial. To mitigate these India has been asked to resolve the issue through mutual discussions. Unfortunately, the talks failed as the Indian side is not ready to budge an inch on this issue.
    Contrary to our requests, the Indian federal minister of water and power has threatened to scrap the Treaty and deprive Pakistan of water of all Indus rivers. Such intimidations speak volumes that they want to destroy the agro-based economy of Pakistan.
    Pakistan is left with no means except to pursue the mediator, the World Bank. It has requested the World Bank to appoint a neutral expert which has been turned down. Such a callous response from the World Bank would embolden the Indian leaders to make mockery of international treaties

    By: Bilal Hassan

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