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33 years of water and power development in Pakistan.

Pakistan emerged as a free nation after a protracted struggle by Indian Muslims for emancipation from British rule. With independence came physical and material hardships which required early economic development through optimum utilisation of country's resources, most of all water and power resources on which depended development of agriculture-mainstay of national economy and profession of over 80 per cent of the population-and industry.

Experience of the first decade of Pakistan's existence had revealed that the existing civil departments of the provincial governments could not work out and implement development plans because of their inherent procedural handicaps, and big national schemes to meet schedules could not be carried out at the required pace. The Government, therefore, addressed itself to the task of creating an organisation to do the job of developing country's water and power resources as urgently as the time required by forming integrated development plans in these fields, and executing them to ensure maximum with the minimum resources.

Water & Power Development Authority, commonly known as WAPDA, was finally established on the pattern of |the Tennessee Valley Authority' of USA. The organisation was set up in February 1958 by an ordinance to take up water and power development in an unified manner. The existing electricity departments were transferred to it through an amendment in 1959. The charter of duties assigned to WAPDA reads:-

"Investigation, planning an execution of schemes in the fields of:-

* Generation, transmission and distribution of power * Irrigation, water supply and drainage * Prevention of waterlogging and reclamation of waterlogged and saline lands * Flood control, and * Inland navigation."

WAPDA was modestly staffed in the beginning to fell through what it had to do, and how. In precisely 33 years it has grown into a gigantic 160,000 workforce working on various WAPDA projects everywhere in the country, and the biggest civil organisation of the country. The organisation works out its annual programme in water and power fields, drawing funds from loans and grants from the federal and provincial governments and foreign aids and loans or floatation of profit guaranteed WAPDA Bonds. The major contributors are World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), German Development Bank (KFW), Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) of Japan, and other donor agencies and friendly countries.

Projects in the water sector are completed by WAPDA and handed over to the related departments of the provincial governments of North West Frontier Province, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, except those which require extra skill and specialised maintenance and multipurpose operations. The power projects, on the other hand, are constructed, operated and maintained by WAPDA. A large number of works are carried out by WAPDA as |deposit work' for the provincial governments or other agencies.

WAPDA pays off its debts mostly through the sale proceeds of electricity it produces. It also has an excellent record of selffinancing its new projects to the extent of 40 per cent of total cost, thus, meeting the requirements of the international funding agencies like Work Bank etc. Its current Annual Development Budget runs over into Rs. 20 billion. The operation budget also amounts another Rs. 25 billion. During the past 33 years of its existence, WAPDA has been fortunate for having been administered by some of the most brilliant personalities in Pakistan like Mr. Ghulam Farooq, Mr. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the present President of Pakistan (who had also drawn up the ordinance for WAPDA, as the then Secretary, Irrigation & Power, West Pakistan) and Mr. A.G.N. Kazi as its Chairmen, and engineers such as Mr. S.S. Kirmanim, Ch. A Hameed, Rashid Kazi, Sayyid Hamid, Mr. Monawar Ali Shah, Mr. Akram Khan, Mr. Shah Nawaz Khan etc.


With the limited financial resources at its disposal compared with the evergrowing demand for power on the system, WAPDA has almost always exceeded the targets given to it by the Government of Pakistan in its Annual Development Plan. However, WAPDA is still struggling hard to meet on the average over 10 per cent annual increase in the demand for power on the system which is unparalleled in the world.

Power Sector Achievements

Having a glance at WAPDA's achievements in the power sector, one can say without any hesitation that our power system has undergone revolutionary expansion in the past 33 years. Let us look at some facts and figures to appreciate the state of affairs in its actual setting. a) The power generation capacity of the system has gone up by over 59 times from 119 megawatts in 1959 to 7,053 megawatts as at present. This includes 2,898 MW of hydroelectric capacity and 4,155 MW of thermal capacity based on HSD furnace oil, natural gas and coal. b) The electricity connections in residential, commercial industrial and agricultural sectors have been give liberally all over the county. From 300,000 consumers in 1959, there are now nearly 7.3 million power consumers on the system, covering over 70 per cent of the population, who are connected to WAPDA's power system every second and every minute of the day. c) Pakistan's industrial progress in the recent years owes a lot to WAPDA's growing power system. There are over 165,000 big and small industrial units receiving power from WAPDA thus enabling the nation to have a healthy growth of manufacturing industries. The share of power consumption of industries in WAPDA's system is 34.3 per cent, over 9.1 billion units consumed in 1990-91. d) The availability of new connections at a very rapid rate and an expansion in WAPDA's system power system have also given a big boost to electrical goods manufacturing industries in Pakistan in the past 33 years. Pakistani private sector manufacturers are today in a position to produce all equipment and items such as conductors, defuses, poles, structures, panels, switchgears, meters, insulators etc., required in the 11 KV system which were previously imported at the expense of precious foreign exchange. The Pakistani firms are also manufacturing now big power transformers, conductors and insulators for use in up to 500 KV transmissions systems. High technology testing laboratories for testing EHV equipment manufactured locally has also been set up in Pakistan now. Previously, this equipment used to be tested abroad, at a big cost of foreign exchange and time. e) The national transmission grid, which is among the biggest in the world, helps pool electricity generated from 26 big and small hydel and thermal power stations in the country and ensures uniform supply of power even to far flung areas The national grid is considered by socio-economic experts as the important unifying force of the four provinces. It now uses 500 KV transmission lines, which outside Japan, is the highest capacity network in Asia. f) WAPDA's transmission lines are now so widespread that their total length can go round the world several times. g) The stress by WAPDA to use the indigenous coal for power generation, despite seven per cent sulphur content contained in the lignite of Lakhra reserves, has opened new avenues for Pakistani entrepreneurs for mining in this crucial area. It is also bound to provide employment to thousands of people near Jamshoro in the Sindh province. Already, the Chinese have been authorised to build three units, each of 50 megawatt capacity based on this coal, benefiting from the latest technology of Fluidised Bed Combustion. Discussions for three further units of 50 MW, as well as joint mining effort with China are now in the final stages. h) The introduction of least combined cycle technology, first at Guddu, then at Kot Addu and later as proposed at Faisalabad, Kotri etc., where hot exhaust gases are to be utilised to produce more power, will and 600 MW to power generation capacity of WAPDA system. It will be a big help to power generation in the country as this additional capacity would be available without use of any fuel-i.e. furnace oil, HSD etc. i) The private sector is also being inducted into power generation area to increase the capacity hand-in-hand with the public sector. A 1,292 MW thermal power project has already been approved to be set up in Balochistan province at a cost of nearly 23 billion rupees with the help of an international consortium, namely, Hub River Power Group, with the Word Bank's assistance. In addition, letter of intent has been issued to nine entrepreneurs for setting up plants in the private sector. j) The expansion in power generation facilities has also led to manufacturing of some components of big boilers used in the thermal power plants in Pakistan. k) Financially, the WAPDA's power wing is quite healthy now. It has assets of over Rs. 96 billion. Last year, it floated bonds for Rs.3.9. billion for the third consecutive projects but it got a subscription of nearly Rs. 6.8 billion In fact , in about 30 months over Rs. 15 billion were subscribed to the WAPDA Bond, in its three issues which is a proof of the subscribers' confidence reposed in WAPDA's financial operations. WAPDA's gross revenue from the sale of power etc., in the financial year 1990-91 (July 1990 to June 1991) was nearly Rs. 32 billion.

Master Planning

WAPDA's biggest contribution in the planning field is preparation of a Master Plan for future development of water and power resources in the country. The Master Plan identifies all projects that can be undertaken right upto the year 2005 to improve water/power availability for hydel generation and for the control of the menace of waterlogging and salinity, these projects are in fact now ready and lying in the |shelf'. The Government has only to pick up the project for inclusion in a development programmed in any year, keeping in view its financial resources, and it can be launched for the benefit of the people immediately afterwards, thanks to this Master Plan.

Indus Basin Projects

WAPDA was entrusted with the execution of Indus Basin Project. This project was a result of long negotiations between India and Pakistan under the auspices of the World Bank about the distribution of water between the two countries. The work involved construction of two big dams, Tarbela and Mangla, five barrages, one syphon and eight link canals. The civil works valued around US $ 3 billion in 1961, which made if the biggest civil work projects in the world at that time. As a result of successful execution of this project, millions of acres were checked and thousands of megawatts of cheap hydel generation was made available to Pakistan.

Indus Basin

Development Plan

WAPDA has formulated a Rs. 188 billion Indus Basin Development Plan to bring large tracts of virgin land under cultivation and considerably add to the electricity generating capacity in the country. The plan, which includes projects to be implemented in all the four provinces, has been made possible by recently concluded water apportionment accord among four provinces of the country. The plan will take about 20 years for its implementation and would replace the gradually depleting storage capacity of existing reservoirs in the country. The fact that the future requires increased food production and more electricity for industrial development adds considerably to the significance of his plan.


a) Water is a major input for effective crop production. WAPDA has made available millions of acre feet of precious water stored in big reservoir, during the flood season for irrigation, particularly in the winter months. The water releases in our irrigation system, which is the biggest in the world, are made for proper computerised studios to avoid wastage of even a drop. This has given the real big boost to country's agriculture. The present state of coutry's self-sufficiency in food and bumper crops of cotton and rice, are all primarily due to availability of timely water from the reservoirs of Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma as well as pumping out of additional nearly 40 million acre feet water annually from the underground reservoir through 230,000 tubewells, of these 150,000 tubewells are those to whom WAPDA Supplies electricity now mostly at a flat rate, which is not economical for WAPDA. b) The possibility of flash floods in rivers like Indus and Jhelum which used to cause havoc to the lives of thousands of people and damage to the crops and property running into billions of rupees every year, has been minimised or even eliminated by construction of big dams like Mangla and Tarbela which have the capacity to absorb these flash floods. c) The pace at which damage was being caused to millions of acres of our fertile land by the twin-menace of salinity and waterlogging has been favourably checked. There was a time when Pakistan was losing one acre of land every five minutes due to this |cancer of the land.' Thanks to WAPDA's execution of 46 SCARPs at a cost running into several billion of rupees involving installation of over 16,700 deep turbine tubewells and construction of thousands of miles of collector drains etc. the trend has now reversed. Although the problem of salinity and waterlogging has not been completely eliminated. WAPDA today reclaims more land than is lost annually. d) WAPDA has made a vital contribution in supplementing the drinking water supplies to the metropolitan city of Karachi and the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The Hub Dam near Karachi supplies 89 million gallons of water to Karachiites daily which is 25 per cent of the total water available to Karachi. Similarly, the Rawal Dam since its completion in 1962, has been supplying millions of gallons of water to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The Khanpur Dam, also already completed, is designed to further supplement the drinking water requirement of the Federal Capital as well as the Taxila Complex. e) Since its inception WAPDA has made available irrigation facilities to nearly 3.1 million acres throught surface development projects like Guddu, Barrage, Tanda Dam, Rawal Dam, Khanpur Dam, Chashma Right Canal etc.



a) During the past 33 years, WAPDA has developed technical know-how and built such a useful reservoir of human resources that if can be envy for any organisation in Pakistan. WAPDA's engineers are considered leaders in the world in the field of control of salinity and waterlogging. The Chinese, Australians, Egyptians and experts from several other countries have come to Pakistan to learn from the Pakistan experience of handling projects of salinity and waterlogging and their subsequent monitoring of the results. b) WAPDA's irrigation engineers have put their stamp internationally in Planning, designing and operation of irrigation projects, so much so that the largest number of irrigation engineers in the World Bank in Washington at one time in the seventies from any country were from WAPDA including the recently retired Mr. S.S. Kirmani, a brilliant international engineer in his own right. c) Almost 50 per cent of the technical staff such as engineers, operators, foremen etc., manning the thermal power house in the Middle East originates from WAPDA service, In fact, for an engineer, technician etc., seeking employment abroad his association with WAPDA is his biggest qualification. d) In the construction of big dams, WAPDa engineers have now gained specialised knowledge to an extent that for the proposed kalabagh Dam Project, 85 percent of the designing work was done by the Pakistani engineers belonging to either WAPDA or NESPAK which is in fact its former Design Directorate. e) WAPDA Central Contract Cell has over the years gained such an expertise of the preparation of tender documents, big evaluations, contract papers etc., that it can claim to be as good as anywhere in the world. In fact, a Chinese team came to WAPDA and studied for a month the Central Contract Cell operations for adoption in their own system. Some Middle East countries have also utilised the services of WAPDA's Contract Cell off and on. f) It has been observed that most foreign aid-giving agencies are keen to offer loans or other financial assistance of WAPDA. This is mainly because WAPDA has the capacity to fruitfully utilise the funds allocated on the basis of its track record. It has regularly been registering utilisation of foreign loan etc., upto over 90 per cent annually. g) As a result of vast expansion of its high transmission line grid, Pakistani contractors have attained expertise to erect high voltage transmission lines even upto 500 KV capacity, without any foreign help. As a result of their experience with WAPRA, the Pakistani contractors are outbidding international firms to win contracts outside Pakistan thus providing not only employment abroad but also earning the precious foreign exchange for the country.

As clear from the above account, WAPDA has achieved a lot, but this has been so despite several handicaps. One can however, appreciate this, because the Government cannot allocate its limited resources only water and power sectors as it has obligations in other social sectors as well. One can say with authority that what WAPDA has contributed in the economic development of the country in the last 33 years, has not been done by any other organizations, quality-wise or quantity-wise It is all the more significant when considered in the light of the financial restraints and other handicaps which it confronted during its short history.
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Author:Shaikh, Raziuddin
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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