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Foreign hand behind opposition to Kalabagh dam:Minister

In a rare yet surprising admission connected to water scarcity in Pakistan, Federal Minister for Water Resources Syed Ail Zafar believes that foreign hand is behind the opposition of long-proposed Kalabagh Dam in the country.

Addressing a press conference here, he said India built dams and set up water reservoirs, but unfortunately Pakistan could only build two dams instead of the proposed seven or eight dams and no major progress could be achieved on building of water reservoirs.

He underlined that India is watching Pakistan’s inaction over construction of the Kalabagh Dam — as well as other dams — and was violating river rights. Giving some hint about foreign hand in the dam’s opposition, he pointed out that anti-Kalabagh Dam conferences held abroad were better organized and seemed far better funded than the seminars organised in Pakistan.

He said that India had violated the Indus Water Treaty and built Kishen Ganga Dam and it had also planned another dam to usurp Pakistan’s share of water. He said that Pakistan should contest this case and ask the World Bank to form an arbitration commission to resolve the matter.

He said that Pakistan was facing water scarcity and time had come to take drastic measures and build new dams and water reservoirs, on emergency basis for overcoming that problem.

The minister said it was a good omen that now there was growing realization about the importance of water issue in the country. He said that during the past two months consultations were held with experts and measures were suggested for overcoming water shortage in the country.

He informed that the caretaker government had prepared guidelines for the next government to address the water scarcity issue in the country.

Ali Zafar said that Pakistan was a lower riparian country where water came from other countries and due to that phenomenon Indus Waters Treaty was signed in the 1960s under which India had the right to use water of three rivers, while Pakistan had the right to utilize water of three other rivers flowing from India to Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan had the quota of 138 million acre-feet (MAF) water but the two dams could only store upto 13.1 MAF water and their capacity was further reducing due to siltation. Out of the 138 MAF water of Pakistan, only 13.1 MAF was stored and some water was used for irrigation while the rest was wasted in oceans.

He said that in the past consensus could not be developed on Kalabagh Dam, but it was beyond comprehension as to why other reservoirs were not built by successive governments.

He said that Pakistan was already facing water scarcity and climate change scenario could also have negative impact. Moreover, water high flow in rivers came only for a few months, so it was vital to have dams to store that water, he added.

He said that hydel power the world over was the cheapest source of power generation and about 30 to 40 per cent electricity was generated from water, but in Pakistan that ratio stood at only 27 per cent. He said that over 90 per cent of water in Pakistan was used for irrigation purposes out of which about 48 per cent was wasted as brick lining of canals had not been done in so far. If lining of canals was done the country could save 6.5 MAF water per annum, but in the past this area also remained neglected, he added.

He said that Pakistan was still using centuries old techniques of watering the fields, while the world has moved forward and adopted latest techniques.

The minister said that in Pakistan drinking water was being used as sewerage water, while the advanced countries use treated water for sewerage. He said that developed countries spent 20 to 30 per cent of their budget on water while Pakistan had been spending only 3 to 7 per cent and there was need of drastic increase in budgetary allocations for that sector.-UNS

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