Experts call for construction of large non-controversial dams
ISLAMABAD, October 1, 2010: While the experts highlighted the need for construction of large but non-controversial dams first, the participants of SDPI seminar urged the government to make a holistic policy which enables the country to deal with increasing water shortages and flash floods, energy crisis, irrigation needs, deforestation, environmental degradation and disaster risk reduction.
Arshad H. Abbasi, adviser on water and energy at SDPI, and Azmat Hayat, director of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, spoke at the seminar titled ‘Post-flood strategy to rebuild Pakistan’ organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here. Faisal Gorchani, head of policy advocacy and outreach at the SDPI, conducted the proceedings and underlined the need for right-policies that put people at the centre of development process and address the current challenges facing the country, including increasing water shortages and flash floods, energy crisis, irrigation needs, deforestation, environmental degradation and disaster risk reduction.
Azmat Hayat said that the construction of dams at downstream Tarbela was the most useful option for floods management since it was extremely necessary to break the peak of floods to avoid likely flash floods in future, which may be of more severity and intensity. “Our weather conditions can produce over 0.6 million cubic feet water which is sufficient to construct large reservoir,” he added. He also urged the need for efforts for investment in flash floods management, including early warning system involving the communities besides climate change impact assessment and investing in communities for adaptation. He also proposed formulation of research-based integrated policies.
Giving a detailed meteorological analysis of rainfall and monsoon, Azmat Hayat elaborated that interaction of two weather systems, westerly and monsoon waves in July this year, created the catastrophic situation of flash floods in the country. He added that such or even more extreme conditions may also come in the future as well. He said that initially it was 0.6 million cubic feet water flooding but downstream tributaries continued adding up the waters into Indus River which reached to over 1.1 million cubic feet at the downstream since its peak could not be broken. “It was high time for Pakistan to invest in dams and construct large reservoirs such as Kalabagh Dam,” he added. He said that the meteorological office had issued a warning to concerned government authorities in late July but neither they took any required action nor the system in place was capable to absorb such a massive flash flooding.
Arshad H. Abbasi recommended that best flood strategy was to construct at least non-controversial large water reservoirs to avoid devastating floods in future, which will not only help in controlling the likely floods but they will also increase the water storage capacity for irrigation, especially during drought times, generate hydroelectricity, accelerate the economic growth and reduce poverty in the country. He said that only answer to overcome current challenges was development of big water reservoirs using the available hydropower potential of 56,536 Mega Watts in the country.
He lamented that the main focus of the present government was to build small dams such as Darawat, Winder, Ghabir, Naulong and Naigaj with actual estimated cost of 35.5 billion rupees in July 2009 but this cost was now revised touching 1,159 billion rupees or 1,159 million dollars in June 2010. On the other hand, the output of these small dams was 9.5 MW power with a 46,1521 MAF storage capacity. He said that instead of building these highly costly but less productive dams, the government should construct Munda Dam, which can produce 470 MW electricity with 1,200,000 MAF storage capacity while the cost was estimated at 1,149 million dollars or Kurram Dam with 1049.3 MW electricity potential with 1200,,000 MAF storage capacity with a 1,100 million dollars cost. “This is nothing but a complete institutional collapse,” he went on to say.
He said that Pakistan has constructed only three water reservoirs so far which included Terbela, Chashma and Mangla dams with the total original storage capacity of 18.37 million acre feet which has now reduced to 6.03 MAF or 33 per cent of the total. This has also negative effects on the country with regard to irrigation, energy and agriculture needs of the growing population.
He further gave an overview of Indian river basins which constructed 4,636 dams with a storage capacity of 245 MAF with 750 MAF annual water flow, whereas Pakistan has constructed 3 dams with a capacity of 12.34 MAF with 145 MAF annual water flow. He gave a detailed analysis of cost of electricity production from hydel power and other sources adding that Pakistan was the only country in South Asia which was heavily dependent on costly oil options and IPPs for energy generation. He said that the circular debt and shortage of gas was the two main reasons of energy crisis in the country and urged that Pakistan should utilise its hydel power potential.