Vaderas are the issue not the Kalabagh Dam

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The Kalabagh Dam was never a political or controversial issue as stated by Mr. Ayaz Latif Paleejo. As a matter of fact, the Kalabagh Dam has been made so by the unscrupulous and senseless politicians. The Vaderas (Landlords), who have become politicians, always have sucked the blood of the poor people of Pakistan. It is the height of hypocrisy on their part when they talk of their welfare.

When we talk of Kalabagh Dam, the first thing to realize about a dam is that it is not a consumer of water; it acts as a storage of water, to be regulated for multipurpose use. Even its use for electricity generation does not involve consumption of water. Water is still available for other purposes mentioned below.

The site of Kalabagh Dam is located about 15 miles upstream of Mianwali on the river Indus. The Dam, if built, would provide 3,500 megawatts of electricity at the cost of about 31 to 50 paisas per unit as compared to the cost of about Rs. 4 to 5 per unit provided by the thermal power stations. Even if one includes initial capital cost in the building of the dam, the electricity production cost will average out to be much cheaper than from thermal units. The Dam, will not only produce electricity, and store water, but will also regulate supply of water to whole of country for irrigation right upto the Arabian Sea. It will play an important role in controlling floods in the river Indus. As a matter of fact, we should go for dams all over the country to produce hydro-electricity, which will be much cheaper. Even the poor people will be able to afford it to use to improve their living standards and thus come out of the exploitation of the unscrupulous the rich politicians and Vaderas.

By constructing Kalabagh Dam, 70,000 (Seventy thousands) people living a miserable life in the rocks along the riverbanks between Nowshehra and the dam site will be displaced. This does not include the people living in the city of Nowshehra. As far as the city of Nowshehra is concerned, it will not submerge in water, as the water level of the Storage Lake will be lower than the city elevation. The poor people living between Nowshehra and the dam are living a real backward and miserable life. There are no roads between Attock Bridge and the dam site. They even don’t have clean drinking water. There is hardly any land under cultivation and the poor people do not enjoy even the basic facilities of life. In fact the Kalabagh Dam will provide these poor people an opportunity of shifting to places with facilities of leading a better life. Kalabagh Dam will also provide jobs and as such a better life. Kalabagh Dam will thus be a blessing in disguise for the poor people of the area.

Very little cultivated land between Nowshehra and Kalabagh, along both the banks of the river will be submerged in water. It is negligible as compared to the enormous benefits that the country will enjoy with the construction of the dam.

As far as the land in Mardan, Charsadda, and the west of Risalpur is concerned, it could be saved from salinity by constructing a concrete channel along the left bank of river Kabul in which water seepage could go and thrown back into the river Indus near Attock.

Some politicians express the danger that Nowshehra could be flooded. This would never happen when the water is stationary. In 1921, it so happened that the river Indus was in extremely high floods and the river Kabul kicked a back flow, thus raising the water level and submerging Nowshehra. Since then 75 years have passed and Nowshehra has not faced that situation again. In fact with the construction of Tarbella dam and under construction Ghazi Baroda dam, the water will be stored in the storage lakes and become stationery and a controlled amount of water will be discharged from these dams. The question of high floods coming into river Indus and kicking a back flow of river Kabul would not arise. Frankly speaking, some politicians do not like the Generators to be installed in the area of Punjab province i.e. on the left bank of the river Indus. However, one should realize that the site is such that the water falls or tunnels cannot be built on the Right Bank of the river Indus because of the high ground. The natural fall comes on the left bank. These politicians do not think at the national level. If the Generators were to be installed on the Right Bank in NWFP, I am sure, the construction of Kalabagh dam would have been welcomed. I wonder, why can’t these people think at the national level instead of talking about provincialism?

Now consider the fuel for the domestic use. Of-course, the industry cannot run without power. We do not have jungles in our country, which are badly needed for wood and clean environment. How long will we be able to depend upon the natural gas? One day the gas reservoirs will exhaust. Then what? A big question. We will be able to survive only if we have enough cheaper power. This we can only get by constructing dams, not only at Kalabagh but all over the country; Basha – upstream of Tarbella on the river Indus, river Dhir, river Sawat, in Kaghan valley, and at many other sites all over the country in the mountains.

One cannot understand why Baluchistan is opposing the construction of Kalabagh dam? There are three canals coming out of Guddu Barage, on the Right Bank of river Indus. The land from Kashmore (the site of Guddu barrage) to Jaccobabad, between right bank of the river Indus and the Patfeeder canals, which could be cultivated, has been submerged in 5 to 10 feet of deep water. It can be noticed while travelling from Kashmrore to Jaccobabad. Even 132 KVA line leading to Quetta is submerged in deep water. Despite of this the politicians of Baluchistan are talking of scarcity of water for irrigation. The supply of water to these canals could easily be maintained and even better regulated, if we had stored the water upstream of Guddu at places like Kalabagh, Basha, and Chashma.

Now, let us talk about Sindh. Much of cultivable land on the left bank of river Indus has been submerged in water between the river Indus and the three irrigation canals taken out from Guddu barrage. Then there are canals coming out from Sukhar barrage, and Kotri barrage. The water is surplus in Sind. Due to excessive water the land on the left bank of river Indus, from Mirpurkhas right upto the Arabian Sea, has been adversely affected by the salinity. It is because of this reason that the LBOD project was completed at a cost of billions of dollars. A huge big canal, starting near Sanghar, has been constructed to carry the water, to be pumped by hundreds of tube-wells, to the sea in order to recover the land for cultivation. Still some Sindhi politicians are talking of scarcity of water. As a matter of fact, we must have storage facilities to store the water down stream of Kotri barrage that could be filtered, purified and supplied to Karachi as drinking water. May I ask those people who claim that water supply to Sindh is insufficient then why did the need of LBOD (Left Bank Out-board Drainage) canal come up? Why the nation’s valuable wealth had to be wasted? Sindh government has miserably failed to control the LBOD project efficiently.

They cannot keep the tube-wells in running condition. No one maintains the much needed oil supply to the transformers. When the oil level in the transformers drops below the required level the transformers burn out and the electrical supply is cut off to the tube-wells.

Finally, let us discuss the environmental issues. If we have more dams, barrages, and lakes in the country, it will produce more moisture, which means more rains, more jungles, more greenery, more cultivation and good clean environment.

These Vaderas exploit poor people for their vested interests. I know years ago the poor people of the Sindh province were given impression by some politicians that people in Punjab extract electricity out of the water and release water to Sindh, which has nothing, left in it. The poor illiterate people would believe the politicians.

Imagine, what will happen to the country once the Tarbella and Mangla dams get silted like Warsak and there will be much shortage of electricity. Gas reserves would be exhausted in due course of time. There are no jungles in the country for the provision of wood for fire and other human needs. Would we be able to afford to pay very high cost of oil for running our thermal power plants?

Now, few suggestions to the Government of Pakistan to get out of clutches of the vaderas:

  • a). With one stroke of pen, unilaterally, a decision should be taken, to confiscate the lands and the ill-gotten wealth of the Vaderas, who do not cultivate their own lands. The holding should be limited to one square of land, enough for them to meet their both end meals. The rest of the land should be distributed amongst the Mazaras who actually work on the lands. India took this step long time ago and got rid of the feudal lords.
  • b). The Government should disclose the lists of the criminals on the pay roll of the Vaderas and exemplary punishments should be awarded to those who give them sanctions.
  • c). Not only the existing loans should be recovered from the defaulters but the written off loans should also be recovered.
  • d). The Government should plan and build as many dams and water storage facilities as possible, all over the country.

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Above article was written by late Muhammad Afzal Khan in the late 1990s on the Kalabagh Dam issue.

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