Dams: prudence calls for sanity
By Aziz Narejo
Statements on the construction of Kalabagh, Akhori-Sanjwal, Bhasha and other dams prove one thing: the praetorian masters continue to ignore the voices of the small provinces. One is at loss to understand why they are so unresponsive – and why do they want to destroy the very few remaining bridges between the people of the four provinces?
One wonders how hard it would be for anyone with a minimal intelligence to figure out that the overwhelming majority of the people of Sindh were deadly against the construction of any mega dam on the Indus River . If there were a democratic setup or a true ‘federal’ government in the country, the people at the top should have respected the opinion of a federating unit or at least they should have tried to understand the reasons behind their stand.
If the powers that be had sincerely tried, they might have found out that the people of Sindh already faced annihilation. What should one expect from them? Seeing everything in black and white how could one suggest to them to agree to their death warrant?
It is so obvious to an open eye that the over-exploitation of water resources upstream has already caused irreversible losses to the economy of Sindh – to the agriculture, the livestock, fisheries, deltaic life, flora and fauna, eco-system and the environment. People in the lower riparian province strongly believed that any further damming of the river waters would completely ruin the province. The people of Sindh just don’t have anything more to give.
It is not only Sindh. The people in the NWFP (Pukhtoonkhwa) are also against the construction of the Kalabagh Dam. They fear inundation of their fertile lands and several villages and towns. Three out of four provincial assemblies have passed multiple resolutions against the dam. How can someone arbitrarily decide otherwise and embark on a quixotic pursuit of building mega dams that may bring catastrophe to the country?
It may be true that the present fragile government at the Center is working under tremendous internal and external pressures. It lacks the popular mandate and hasn’t been able to convince the world of its legitimacy. It may be in dire need to please its own constituency and a powerful lobby in the bigger province to continue in power. But the question is: are these reasons good enough to put the country at stake?
Also shouldn’t we know that it is not only the agriculture that makes a country great? There are other ways that many developed countries have adopted to increase their per capita incomes and reach formidable positions in the comity of nations. Merely destroying agriculture at one place and irrigating some lands at other places would not ensure our greatness.
The sanity calls for prudence and looking into the available alternates. Would they – the powers that be – for once opt for the reason instead of exigencies? Any wrong decision at this moment may prove catastrophic.
(Letter published in daily Dawn in September, 2005)