Dams, Ports And NFC: by Aziz Narejo
The authors of fantastic ideologies, fables and fairy tales have crafted a myth that the people of Sindh and Balochistan are anti-development. This falsehood has been based on Sindh’s opposition to mega water projects and Balochistan’s concerns over the under-construction Gwadar port. Instead of finding out why this is so, the two provinces have.been discredited and condemned.
Why does Balochistan have reservations about the port? Baloch leaders say the project would create a demographic imbalance, turning the local people into a minority in their own province. They say the people should be co-opted for any development projects in their areas.
Why do Sindhis oppose mega water projects? They look at the history and tremble at what any new dams and canals upstream will do to them. They see broken promises, agreements and treaties.
How did the upper riparian unilaterally bypass the 1945 Water Agreement, the only accord between Sindh and Punjab reached without any coercion or intimidation? They have seen what has happened to six water commissions since the British Raj. They know how the Indus Basin Treaty was concluded behind their backs.
The people of Sindh are also aware how an unrepresentative regime was forced to sign the 1991 Water Accord. And today even that agreement is not being followed. The people know under what agreements and promises the Chashma-Jehlum and Taunsa-Panjnad canals were built and how these agreements and promises have been trashed.
It is universally accepted that the upper riparian can’t undertake any mega projects as it pleases and that already existing projects have precedence over any new projects. That was the principle why the British administrators rejected the Greater Thal Canal project. And today our own government is building the same project. When there is already a huge shortage of water in the Indus River system, where will water come from for the canal?
The same is the case with the NFC when the provincial governments and the federal authorities are hoodwinking the people. Instead of seeking 80 per cent share for the 97 per cent population, the provinces are nowhere near even presenting their case properly. It all looks like a pre-arranged affair where the people at large will suffer and the federal government, its agencies and a few powerful lobbies will be the beneficiaries. Still they say Sindh and Balochistan are at fault – they are anti-development. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They need it the most. But only if they are co-opted and if it is beneficial to their people.
(A letter published in daily Dawn, Karachi).