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Kalabagh Dam.

The Seminar was sharply divided on whether the construction of Kalabagh was necessary and unavoidable or that its absence would make any worthwhile difference in the scheme of things that are obtaining in the country. It is felt that in a technical seminar no consensus should be pressed merely on the basis of majority view in the seminar.

There was no representation from NWFP and Balochistan. As such any consensus would have been meaningless. There were two groups holding diverse views for and against Kalabagh Da but the third one recognised the importance of the Dam pleading extreme caution about any side-effects that could bring more harm to one region or the other except the beneficiaries in upper riparian area.

The proposal to build Kalabagh Dam rests on the premise that Pakistan was short of power and in order to meet the shortage various sources should be used in an optimu mix in which hydro-electricity being renewable and cheap should also contribute its share. There was no disagreement on the need to adopt measures to meet the future power gap but the group against Kalabagh Dam did not agree to commission hydro potential by constructing storage at Kalabagh which would reduce water supply to lower riparian regions of the country. It was argued that there is not sufficient water available to allow storage of huge quantity of 6.1 MAF. The other group was of the views that storage does not consume any water except for the losses by evaporation and percolation. The water availability is calculated differently by the two groups which shows a big difference. Therefore there should be an agreement on the basis of calculations for determining water availability otherwise it would not be possible to resolve the difference between the two opposing groups of experts.

The second point of contention is the calculation of losses and doubtful share of eastern rivers. The two ways adopted by the two groups for calculating losses result in a big difference of 9 MAF, that is, those in favour of Kalabagh Dam are said to under-rate the losses while those against are considered to be over-estimating the losses. Here also an agreement on the basis to be adopted for calculating losses is essential to narrow down the difference. It is also imperative to study ways and means to reclaim water lost through seepage by sinking tubewells. A substantive percentage of water can be recovered for agriculture use.

The third most important point of divergence is the quantity of water allowed to flow dowstream Kotri to ensure adequate quantity of fresh water supply to mangroves in the deltaric region. The Water Apportionment Accord guarantees a flow of 10 MAF. The experts believe that on the basis of past record the amount of water flowing dowstrea had been more than 35 MAF which after losses between Kotri and delta was reduced to 15 to 20 MAF coupled with reduction in silt down to 50m tons annually which is detrimental to mangrove plants. Even with this flow which is more than 10 MAF there has been a marked deterioration in the density of mangroves and extinction of certain species of mangrove plants. However, experts believe that more in-depth studies are required to determine as to what porportion of freh water is required to mix with sea water to sustain normal growth of mangrove culsture and restrict further deterioration, reduction in fish catch especially shrimps. It is understood studies are in progress in IUCN to determine the optimum ratio of fresh and sea water.

The fourth important factor which requires thorough study is the likely inundation of part of five distrits in NWFP and sub-mergence of Nowshera city. The clarification supported by charts and graphs presented at the seminar showed that there was no danger to Nowshera as it is at a higher plain and even if floods of the intensity of 1929 recur, which have not occured during the last 63 years, the water level would remain below the Nowshera level and there would be no back water effect and siltation along Kabul River. The flows can be properly regulated at Kalabagh Dam through flood forecasting and timely bleeding of reservoir of accommodate incoming flood water. However, certain area in the five districts of NWFP would be submerged displacing 83000 people. The major part of area which will be submerged is non-productive.


1. Considering options to Kalabagh Dam it is suggested that instead of storage Dam, run of the river hydro-electric projects should be undertaken for which there was a potential of 15000 MW and for which several sites have already been identified. There are two disadvantages of resorting to run of river plants. Firstly their capacity is reduced during winter months considerably as in the case of Tarbela which is reduced to 28 per cent of it installed capacity and therefore they would be highly uneconomical. Secondly it is argued that without storage capacity at Kalabagh Dam flood waters would escape unutilized. The dam would help in regulating flow of water according to needs and also help in utilizing floods waters. The run of river hydroelectric projects therefore would not add to power during reduced flow period.

2. Use of Coal for Power Generation: The position of coal reserves has improved with the discovery of new fields in Thar desert which could support power generation to the extent of 1500 MW for a period of 40 years. However, it would take three years to start mining of coal because studies on proving reserves would take at least two years.


1. Another seminar of experts should be held to decide the basis of calculating water availability for Kalabagh Dam and the losses which reduce the availability. The seminar should be adequately represented by all concerned and foreign experts. 2. The Indus delta is at the brink of ecological disaster. Therefore before taking any decision it should be understood as to what is being put to risk and what social and economic benefits would accrue with and without Kalabagh Dam. 3. The time needed for studies to determine proven reserves of coal, IUCN studies on fresh and sea water mixture suitable for sustaining delta ecosystem and other studies relating to cost benefit analysis of upstrea developent projects is about three years while exploitation of newly-formed coal fields at the earliest would take five years, from the start. 4. It would therefore be in the fitness of things to defer the decision of constructing Kalabagh Dam for the present and reliance be made on import of electricity from Tajikistan for the intervening period though any delay would further escalate the cost of the project. 5. The run of river hydroplants' alternative should also be deferred indefinitely as it would not help much in bridging the power gap in future. 6. The share of eastern rivers cannot be relied upon and as such this option be excluded from water balance sheet prepared by WAPDA except for the water available from the catchment areas lying within Pakistan for which systematic studies be carried out. 7. The following studies recommended should be undertaken at top priority. a. The environmental Impacct Study on

Kalabagh Dam. b. Cost benefit analysis of Kalabagh Dam

in terms of economi return to upper

riparian areas and the advantages to

low-reparian areas before and after

construction of the dam. c. Determination of water availability

based on actual data of last 70 years

since 1922 which is available should

be used to determine water availability.

Similarly quantu of losses be

determined against a common

criterion. The proposed study

recommended in water Apportionment

Accord should be undertaken right

away by UNDP/World Bank to

ascertain the minimu flow of water to

sea to sustain the ecosystem. The

possibility of diverting moderately

saline water for LBOD to river or sea

be examined to increase the level of

water in creeks contain mangroves

plants. d. Use of coal through fluidized bed

techniques should be resorted to as a

breakthrough in the use of coal is in

the offing. e. Causes of water quality deterioration

along the course of the river may be

studied and measures identified to

combat further deterioration of quality

of water for drinking and agricultural

purpose. f. More saline resisting species of

mangrove plants should be studied for

possible sustenance of mangrove

plant. The studies should be

undertaken at the Applied BIology

Division of PCSIR or Institute of Marine

Biology of Karachi University in

collaboration with Nationa Institute of

Oceanography. g. Plantation of mangrove plants in the

embankment areas of saline water

drainage, should be initiated.
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Title Annotation:Kalabagh, Pakistan
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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