Concerns Over Mega Water Projects

Concerns over mega water projects: by Aziz Narejo

 
The opponents of mega dams have been arguing for long that there is no water available for such projects: there is not enough water to fill even the present dams – Tarbela and Mangla – however silted they are. How wise is it then to spend billions of dollars on new dams that are to remain empty for four out of five or 80 out of 100 years?

 
The oft-repeated argument in favour of new dams is the so-called wastage of water below Kotri. The calculation of the ‘wastage’ is based on the super flood years that occur once in five to 10 years.

 
For most of the time no water is allowed below Kotri causing colossal damage in human,
economic and environmental terms. Also that not all the rains that cause super floods occur in the catchment areas of the proposed dams. Do we have any plans to store the rainwater of Badin in the reservoirs at Kalabagh or Bhasha?

 
An important point to consider is that in recent years 96-104 maf of water has been
acknowledged in the system as against 117.35 maf of water distributed under the 1991
Water Accord.

 
It means we already are facing a shortage of over 12 maf in the system. Can one imagine
how precarious the situation would become if the required water below Kotri, the Indian
share in the eastern and western rivers, present and future system losses and the losses
due to any dams on the Kabul River are accounted for?

 
And what of the water losses that will occur after the construction of a big dam? Please note that system losses rose from 6.9 maf post-Mangla Dam to 16.2 maf post-Tarbela Dam. Can we afford such losses when we need almost every cusec of water?

 
One can’t comprehend why we don’t listen to experts who tell us of alternatives that are
less costly and more beneficial than the proposed mega dams. Why don’t we heed the World Commission on Dams’ word of caution against big dams that are losing favour the world over as EU, the USA, China, Japan, Spain and others are rethinking and reversing their past policies? Anyone still unsure needs to study the International Rivers Network report on the subject titled Beyond Dams: Options and Alternatives.

 
Why do we want to squander away our resources on projects that are controversial and
divisive and would surely prove disastrous to the economy and the unity and integrity of the country? Why can’t we instead spend on education, health, human services, infrastructure development and alternative water projects that would make us sure winners?
(Letter published in daily Dawn in 2003).

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