SDPI’s Seminar on “Mirani Dam: Development or Disaster?”
Speakers declare it ‘mega-disaster’ than ‘mega-development’
Mirani dam in Balochistan is not a mega development but a mega disaster for the local areas because it has failed to deliver and all the government assessments and forecasts have proved drastically wrong, said Senator Dr Abdul Malik while speaking at a seminar on “Mirani dam: development or disaster” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. The speakers demanded an early compensation for the 2007 Mirani dam flood-affected population besides a post-project evaluation report consisting of technical, financial, social and environmental third-party audit.
Dr Malik said although he supports the development of dams in Balochistan because a plenty of rainwater goes waste every year which can be stored and chanelized for the vast cultivable areas in the province. He said the local people had strong reservations about the design, assessment reports and claims of then General (r) Musharraf government including cultivation of over 32,000 acres land through this dam but unfortunately the dam is just irrigating 3-4 thousands acres. The vast lands between Turbat and Pasni have become uncultivable due to this dam. He lamented that there have been powerful evidences of corruption and misdeeds of those who exercised power with regard to construction of this dam. He urged early recovery and compensation for the Mirani dam flood-affected persons of 3 Union Councils who were living under open skies without any basic facilities in post-flood situation despite passage of four years.
Arshad H. Abbasi, advisor water and power at SDPI, while presiding over the proceedings, said the Mirani dam is a classic example of design failure as the upstream population was affected due to floods and back water flow from Mirani dam in 2007. He lamented that no Commission or settlement plan has been announced by the government despite heavy damages to local population and passage of four years. He demanded that a post-project evaluation report consisting of technical, financial, social and environmental third-party audit be initiated immediately. “Although dams in Balochistan were necessary due to rapidly depleting ground water level but consideration of catchments and watershed management would be vital while development of dams which has been not taken into account so far” he added.
Sharif Shamazai, associate at the Institute for Development Studies and Practices (IDSP), Quetta gave detailed briefing on Mirani dam, its primary objectives, concerns and reservations of local community during construction , design failure and damages it had caused to local community. He urged government to immediately provide compensation to the neglected affectees who had suffered heavy damages to their houses, crops and livelihoods. He briefed that Mirani dam was in fact constructed to provide water to Gawadar and adjacent naval base and not to benefit local people or to irrigate 33,000 acres of land, as stated. He added that survey and feasibility was completed in very unprofessional way, ignoring the feedback and reservations of local communities on dam’s design, who proposed 80 feet height and 1200 feet wide spill way, which was ignored and resulted in a mega disaster. He said that unprecedented rains in 2007 triggered reverse flash floods upto the level of 271 feet height, against expected 244 feet height and brought disaster in numerous villages in upstream areas. The floods destroyed farms, orchards, homes, live stocks, grazing lands and most of what their valuables. Now people are living in open skies waiting for relief and compensation even after the lapse of four years, he added.
A local affectee, Wahid Bux Baloch, said that the local population had raised their sever concerns about the faulty design and height of this dam during NESPAK’s survey and consultative process. However, the then government did not pay any heed to local population’s genuine concerns and resultantly the heavy rains and flooding in late June in 2007 caused havoc with the lives and property of local population particularly in Union Councils Nasir Abad, Nodaz and Klatak. “People have lost their homes, agricultural, livestock and savings then and even today they are shelterless and without basic necessities of life including safe drinking water amid the unchecked spread of different diseases” he went on saying. He said the affected people are facing different financial, social, psychological, and environmental challenges simultaneously but no attention is paid by the government.