Kalabagh Dam Controversy
Kalabagh Dam is the proposed hydroelectric dam project on Indus river at Kalabagh in Mianwali district in Punjab. Tarbela Dam is located 251.1 KM far from the Kalabagh dam project site. Catchment area of River Indus at the Kalabagh dam site is 286, 194 sq. km. The average annual flow of River Indus is 138.69 MAF at the Kalabagh dam site.
Kalabagh is a small town and a union council in Mianwali district and part of Isakhel tehsil of province Punjab of Pakistan. It is located on the western bank of Indus river. Kalabagh region is famous for the proposed controversial hydroelectric dam project in the area. It is also famous for its red hills of salt range and scenic view of traversing Indus river through the mountains. It was a city settled by its Nawabs, when Nawab Malik Surkhuroo khan made it here.
Historically it remained a stronghold area of Awan in the district. Nawab Malik Atta Muhammad Khan was declared “Khan Bahadur” during the British colonial period. Malik Amir Muhammad Khan son of Malik Atta Muhammad Khan become the governor of Pakistan later on. Majority of residents of Kalabagh are Bangi khel Khattak, Niazi or Awan.
Kalabagh dam project was planned in year 1984 to accelerate the country’s economic growth to support the fast growing population of Pakistan and to raise their living standards. It is necessary to realize the full hydro-power and agricultural potential of available water resource and to manage and regulate the flood peaks of the Indus river in the region. And the Kalabagh dam project is an excellent to achieve all the goals.
Kalabagh dam is 259 ft high and 10,991 ft long and catchment area of 110,500 sq mi. It is planned to a maximum capacity 3600 MW of electricity and the water storage capacity up to 3 years. Kalabagh dam would provide 6.5 million acre feet of water to cultivate 7 million acre of barren land with 3600 mega watts of electricity to power the economy. Kalabagh dam would also help to eradicate poverty in KPK province by irrigating 800,000 acre of cultivable land that is located 100–150 feet above the level of river Indus.
Controversy and opposition to the Kalabagh Dam
Awami national party (ANP) and Jamiat ulma e Islam Fazal ur Reham group (JUIF) and Sindh opposed the construction of Kalabagh dam project. KPK statement on Kalabagh dam is that with the construction of the project Nowshehra will get flooded. Swabi, Mardan and Pabbi scrap will be water logged and the people of KPK will be displaced. And Sindh province statement on the Kalabagh Dam is that It will convert the Sindh into desert land because of non-availability of water and especially remove the city Badin from the map of Sindh due to droughts. And the land of lower Sindh will be affected by the intrusion of salt from the sea.
Reality of Kalabagh Dam
As KPK claimed Nowshehra, Swabi, Mardan and Pabbi get flooded. As this claim is not true because according the computer simulations done proved that floods in Nowshehra has no connection with the construction of Kalabagh dam. Because in Nowshehra the peak elevation of the lowest ground is 935 ft. While Kalabagh dam reservoir is designed to kept at 915 ft. Which is lower than the peak elevation of the lowest ground in Nowshehra. So there’s no chances of flood because of the Kalabagh dam.
And the elevation of lowest regions in Mardan is 970 feet, Swabi 1000 feet, Pabbi 960 feet. Which is higher than the Kalabagh dam reservoir which is just 915 feet. And maximum level of 915 feet of Kalabagh dam would be maintained only for 3–4 weeks during the September-October months. After which it would decrease as water is released for the “Rabi” crops cultivation and power generation. And it would get lower to the dead storage level of 825 feet by early June. So there’s no threat to KPK because of Kalabagh.
Sindh’s reservation on Kalabagh is due to sea intrusion in the Indus delta as the Irrigation and the power department of Sindh recently announced statistics of the impacts of sea intrusion in the Indus delta. According to the report Almost a quarter million populations have been dislocated causing financial losses of over Rs. 100 billion. Because of Tidal infringement has inundated over 486,000 hectares representing 33% of the land in Thatta and Badin. And Many more losses such as loss in fish production, crops, land, agricultural and forestry are enlisted in the report of IUCN, and this is the main reason that Sindh is not allowing any other dam at the upstream region.
Pakistan is drying and the Conclusion
Every project has its merits and demerits but it can be sort out through dialogue and debate on the matter. Kalabagh dam is need of the present time and the future because nearby dams like Tarbela and Mangla has fulfilled their life and they are not capable of more water storage and power generation. And Kalabagh dam alone can store more water and produce electric power than Tarbela and Mangla dam. And increasing droughts and flood destruction ratio in the country shows the importance of construction of not only Kalabagh dam but also more dams in the country. As Pakistan currently only stores just 10% of its available water source and rest of the 90% of the water is wasted into the sea with no use. So there’s a great need to build more dams to store water for both agricultural and power generation purposes. and we should also avoid any controversies and propagandas against such projects. As India is also investing billions of dollars just for propagandas against such developmental projects in Pakistan and some political parties and stake holders are also supporting these misleading controversies and propagandas which are totally against the economical and developmental growth and prosperity of Pakistan.
According to the latest research reports which claimed water scarcity in Pakistan in 2025. And people will face major droughts in Pakistan as the water shortage is increasing. So dams are our ultimate need for water storage and power production and thus for the growth, stability and survival of Pakistan.