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The Kalabagh Dam

The Kalabagh Dam   is a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Indus River at Kalabagh in the Mianwali District of Punjab Province in Pakistan. Intensely debated and deemed a necessity since its inception, if constructed the dam would have 3,600 megawatts (4,800,000 hp) of electricity generation capacity.[1]

In December 2004, then President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf, announced that he would build the dam to serve the larger interest of Pakistan. However, on 26 May 2008, the Federal Minister for Water and Power of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf, said that the "Kalabagh Dam would not be constructed" and that the project had been cancelled due to "opposition from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindhand other stakeholders, the project was no longer feasible".[2] In 2010 after the worst floods in Pakistani history, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani, stated flood damage would be minimised if the Kalabagh Dam were built.[3]
Technical facts and differing opinions[edit]

Bashir A. Malik, former chief technical advisor to the United Nations and World Bank, said, "Sindh and Pakhtunkhwah would become drought areas in the years to come if Kalabagh Dam was not built."[4] At the same time, former KPK Chief Minister Shamsul Mulk has stated that the "Kalabagh Dam would be helpful in erasing poverty from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as it would irrigate 800,000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100–150 feet above the level of River Indus."[5] The Kalabagh Dam would provide 6.5 million acre feet of water to cultivate seven million acres of currently barren land in addition to the 3,600 megawatts (4,800,000 hp) of electricity it would provide.[6] In response to the push towards side-lining Kalabagh altogether in favour of the rival Basha Dam project, Engineer Anwer Khurshid stated that "Basha Dam is no substitute for Kalabagh Dam, not because of its altitude, which is high enough, but because no irrigation canals can be taken out from it because of the hilly terrain."[7]

Experts who supported the construction of the Kalabagh Dam at the 2012 "Save Water Save Pakistan" Forum included: Dr Salman Shah, former Finance Minister of Pakistan; Abdul Majeed Khan, TECH Society president; Shafqat Masood, former IRSA chairman; Qayyum Nizami, former Minister of State; Prof Abdul Qayyum Qureshi, former Vice-Chancellor of Islamia University, Bahawalpur; Dr Muhammad Sadiq, agricultural scientist; M Saeed Khan, former GM of Kalabagh Dam Project; Mansoor Ahmed, former MD of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Foundation, and Jameel Gishkori, among others.[8] The participants of Save Water Save Pakistan At its conclusion, the forum demanded the construction of five dams, including the Munda Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam, Akhori Dam and the Kalabagh Dam, at by 2025 at the latest to store water and generate electricity to meet demand.

Conversly, Former Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Chief Engineer, Engr. Shahr-i-Yar Khan has claimed that construction of the Kalabagh Dam is not suitable for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and will involve significant fiscal waste when compared to the many other suitable sites for proposed dams on the Indus River. Shahr-i-Yar Khan, who has trained abroad and served in various positions at the WAPDA, highlighted various issues related to construction of the dam, stating that it would have a number of adverse effects on the generation capabilities of the Barotha power complex.

Sindh viewpoint 

The province of Sindh lies nearest to the sea on the Indus River ("lower riparian") and has been the strongest opponent of the Kalabagh Dam. Its politicians have presented many objections: Sindh's share of Indus water will be curtailed as water run off from the Kalabagh Dam will go to irrigate farmlands in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Sindh's detriment. Sindhis hold that their rights as the lower riparian have precedence according to international water distribution laws.

The coastal regions of Sindh require a constant flow of water from the Indus to the Arabian Sea to keep seawater from intruding inland. If the flow of water is stopped, the incoming sea water would turn many areas of Sindh's coast into an arid saline desert, and destroy its coastal mangroves. With the construction of dams such as the Tarbela Dam across the Indus, Sindhis have seen the once-mighty river become a shadow of its former glory downstream of the Kotri Barrage as far as Hyderabad. They fear that there is not enough water for another large dam across the Indus.

Sindh claims that the Indus only continues to flow downstream of the Kotri Barrage because of rain. Hence in years of low rain and with a new dam in place, Sindh fears the river would stop flowing. Damming the Indus has already caused a number of environmental problems yet to be addressed. Silt deposited at the proposed Kalabagh Dam would further curtail the water storage capacity of Manchar Lake and other lakes and wetlands including Haleji Lake.

President Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other leaders, have promised "iron-clad constitutional guarantees" to ensure that Sindh get its fair share of water. However, these assurances mean little to most Sindhis, who claim that even the earlier 1991 Indus Water-Sharing Accord, a document already guaranteed by the constitutional body the Council of Common Interests, has been violated, and that Punjab has "stolen" their water without any concrete evidence.[citation needed]

Objections to the Kalabagh Dam in Sindh are widespread. The political parties of Sindh in the central cabinet who are supported by General Musharraf, such as the Muttahida Quami Movement, have strongly denounced the dam. Opposition towards the dam is such that the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML N) Sindh Chapter is in agreement with opponents of the dam. PML N's leader Nawaz Sharif, who as then Prime Minister of Pakistan, had stated in 1998 that he proposed to build the dam, retracted from his stance and declared that Sindh's viewpoint ought to be respected; no project, however essential, should be carried out that weakened Pakistan's Federation.[citation needed]

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's viewpoint 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) has two main objections to the dam:
KPK claims that the running of Cheshma-Jhelum link canal and overuse of water from the Tarbela Dam is a common occurrence.[citation needed]Although the entire canal system of the Ghazi-Barotha hydro electric project is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the electricity generating turbines lie just 500 metres (1,600 ft) inside Punjab such that KPK is denied to resultant royalties.[citation needed]. While the reservoir will be in KPK, the dam's electricity-generating turbines will be just across the provincial border in Punjab. Therefore, Punjab would get royalties from the central government in Islamabad for generating electricity.[citation needed]. Punjab has however agreed not to claim any royalty on generation of resources from the Kalabagh Dam.

Concerns have been voiced that large areas of the Nowshera District would be submerged by the dam and that the wider area would suffer from water-logging and salinity, as has occurred with the Tarbela Dam. As the water will be stored within the Kalabagh Dam as proposed, water levels in city areas up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) away will rise.[citation needed]. However, engineers with expertise on dam construction repeatedly deny that Nowshera City could be submerged by the dam's lake. Punjab follows a paradoxical policy when it comes to canals to be run out from the Kalabagh Dam. It talks of a right bank canal which will supply water to D I Khan, but in dialogue with Sindh, rejects construction of the right bank canal as unfeasible.[citation needed]

Balochistan's viewpoint 

Balochistan is not directly affected by the dam. Most nationalist Balochis claim that the dam is an instance of the grievances of smaller provinces not being taken into account. They have not commented on the dam following its cancellation.


The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, announced that the fate of the project would be decided by a plebiscite. The decision came after Pakistan faced an extreme power crisis and acute water shortages. The government is currently seeking alternative locations for the dam.[2]

Timeline of Events on Kalabagh Dam Controversy 

December 2004: General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, announces that he would build the dam in the larger interest of Pakistan.
29, November 2012: The Lahore High Court (LHC) orders the federal government to construct the Kalabagh Dam.[9]

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