Business Community should play a pivotal role in creating consensus on the construction of mega dams after every 10 years to eliminate rural poverty and strengthen national economy, said Muhammad Suleman Khan, Chairman, Sind Tas Water Council.
Speaking at a seminar on Kalabagh Dam, he said that Pakistan was pre-dominantly an agriculture country. “The agriculture contributes 21 percent to the national GDP while it also provides 47 percent jobs to the people. Similarly, 60 percent of our national export is also generated from the agriculture produce,” he added.
Underlining the importance of water, he said that water was a priceless and free bounty of nature and it was water that was the harbinger of human, animal, aquatic and botanical life and above all, its survival. He said it was due to this crucial role of water that all ancient civilisations established themselves and flourished at the river banks. The water had assumed a significant importance, as the population of the world, which continued to increase, required manifold supply of food items and fibre like wheat, rice, maize, fruits, vegetables, cotton sugar etc, he added.
He said that it needed to be doubled to feed the teaming millions as well as for export of these items to other countries of the world and earn valuable foreign exchange. For this purpose, he added continuous supply of water was required through its storage and conservation in dams, canals, lakes etc.
Suleman said that annual average flow of water at Bhasha was 50MAF, at Terbela 60 MAF whereas at Kalabagh 90 MAF. “The water above Terbela is almost glacier water. It is totally controlled and useable for irrigation,” he added.
He said that water of rivers Kabul, Swat, Dir, Swan and vast Potohar region was mostly flood water and uncontrollable. “This huge water goes to the sea. If we want to build any dam for the purpose of further water uses, we have to build any dam below Terbela,” he added.
He said that sustained socio-economic development, which meant agricultural and industrial expansions all the most was not possible at all if the country did not pay proper attention to the storages, conservation and maximum utilisation of its water potential, which happened to be the cheapest source of generation of electricity.
He said that the country did not construct any large dams after Mangla, Tarbela, Chashma and Ghazi Brootha, although, the World Bank experts had advised that at least one mega dam might be constructed in each decade.
He said that our utilized water resources capacity was only 10 percent against world’s benchmark of 40 percent. The result was that the country was caught in water and energy crisis.
He said that China had launched a multi-billion man-made 1400 KM long river to divert water from South to North to meet the water requirements of Beijing and other areas of Chinese North. He questioned why not, we can divert our surplus water from north to meet the water requirements of Thar and Cholistan deserts in the south and east of Pakistan.
He said there was no substitute to the construction of mega dams for preservation and conservation of water especially the water from abnormal rains and floods. He said that Kalabagh Dam should be started without wasting a moment.
Suleman said that small dams should also be constructed wherever possible. “It is very important for our national economy that there should be joint ventures of foreign companies with the Pakistani companies especially in hydel and other energy projects,” he added.
Earlier, Engineer Rizwan Ashraf, President, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), said that Pakistan was among the world’s 36 most water-stressed countries and the situation became worsened as the population increased.
“Per capita annual water availability in Pakistan has dropped, fundamentally due to population growth, from 5,600 cubic meters at the time of independence to the current level of 1,017 cubic meters, and is projected to decline further under the current infrastructure and institutional conditions,” he added.
He further said that the demand for water was on the rise, and was projected to reach 274 million acre-feet (MAF) by 2025, while supply was expected to remain stagnant at 191 MAF, resulting in a demand-supply gap of approximately 83 MAF.
Expressing concerns over this widening gap between water supply and demand, he said that these were compounded by certain characteristics of Pakistan’s geography, climate, and hydrological cycle as the country depended on a single source, the Indus system and its tributaries, for most of its water supply needs.
He said that fed mostly by snow and glacier melt in the mighty Himalayan range, water availability in the Indus system was highly seasonal, with 85pc of annual river flows occurring during the June-September period, which coincided with the concentration of rainfall in the monsoon. He added that rainfall varied from 1,500 mm per year in northern Punjab to 150 mm per year in upper Sindh province. Later, Ashraf presented FCCI shield to Muhammad Suleman Khan. Suleman also presented a memento of Sindh Tas Water council to Engineer Rizwan Ashraf.
The seminar was attended among others by Dr Khalid Shauq and Saeed Iqbal Bhatti, chief co-ordinator, Sindh Tas Water council.
Senior vice-president Nadeem Allahwala thanked the participants of the seminar.