October 09, 2015
The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry has decided to form a “council on Kalabagh Dam” of experts, technocrats, business leaders and chamber representatives and other trade bodies in a bid to pave the way for an early completion of the Kalabagh Dam through developing consensus. The decision was taken by Lahore Chamber President, Sheikh Muhammad Arshad who said the sole objective would be to make environment conducive for the dam construction.
He said during his election campaign he had promised to form the council to pave way for this important national project and that letters to seek consent of experts had already been dispatched. He also said the dam was hardly an issue of the Punjab alone but a matter of the country’s survival that was “at stake because of fast depleting water resources”.
He urged the civil society to play its role to save Pakistan. He said the dam construction was recommended by a highest-level World Bank team in 1960s so there was no question of the Punjab being the sole beneficiary of this dam. He said he had talked on the issue since long but neither any politician nor any government gave due attention towards this problem.
He said all those who were opposing the dam were doing disfavour to the whole nation. So much so, he said, they are playing with future generations of this country. He said that it was unfortunate that our decision makers were not the victims of wrong decisions they make as it would only adversely impact the common man. “The dam is absolutely essential to irrigate 800000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100-150 feet above the Indus River level in NWFP. He said this land could only be brought under cultivation if the river level is raised that is only possible if Kalabagh Dam is built. He said the other alternative is to pump the water which is very costly.
Studies have indicated that pumping water for potential cultivable land would cost farmers Rs 5000 per acre per year while canal water after construction of Kalabagh Dam would cost only Rs 400 per acre per year. He said historical data indicates that during past 75 years average 146 million acres of water is available per year in river Indus. He said we throw on average 30 MAF of water per year in the sea, most of it during two months of monsoon. He said this water must be stored for irrigation and power generation.
Chamber senior Vice President Almas Haider and Vice President Nasir Saeed said a seminar on hydro politics in South Asia concluded that China, India and Pakistan “are poor in fresh water that has the potential to flare in to conflicts”. They said India has got double standards when it comes to water rights. They said it claims right on the basis of upper riparian over use of this water against Pakistan while in case of China and Nepal from where some of its rivers originate it claims water on historic use. However, they added before confronting India we must put our house in order.
“If we cannot defend and prudently utilise our own resources we would not be able to fight for the similar resources being usurped by others.” They said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry would continue its struggle for creating a consensus for the early construction of water reservoirs in the country.