Dams: To Build Or Not To Build?

Dams: To Build Or Not To Build? by Aziz Narejo

One is at loss to understand why all the wisdom always becomes a monopoly of the rulers of the day as is evident in the case of the controversial issues of building new dams and Greater Thal Canal (GTC) – the issues, which have amply exposed the cleavages in our society?

Why is it that the opponents of the ‘nightmare 2025’ are not given equal time on official and unofficial media to present their case on these important national issues? How is it that the fallacious arguments in support of new dams and GTC are hammered in day and night while the other side is completely shut out? How can one serve the interests of the people if the people are not even heard?

It is propagated as if new dams will solve water problems. People are not told that the dams are only ‘reservoirs’ to store water. They can not ‘create’ water. Several experts quoting official figures have proved beyond doubt that we simply don’t have extra water for any new dams. We actually are facing shortfall! That’s why IRSA has been distributing water on the basis of controversial 1994 arrangement instead of 1991 Water Accord since last four years. Due to the acute shortage of water, Sindh has faced ecological and human disaster in two coastal districts and tremendous loss in agriculture production elsewhere.

The experts say that our capacity to use and store water at this time is 139.7 MAF while the total available water is 131.188 MAF. It means that we already have a capacity to store or to use 8.5 MAF of extra water! With raising Mangla Dam and de-silting Tarbela, we can increase that capacity even further. That may equal that of the both – the KBD and the Bhasha Dam. But who listens?

One wonders when we will consider all the people of Pakistan as equals and will respect the voice and the interests of all instead of a few chosen ones?

(This is a letter published in daily Dawn, Karachi in October, 2003.

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