Water storage: IRSA proposes building new dams ‘on war footing’

Published: May 19, 2011

Tarbela Dam, along the Indus River, rises 148 metres high and is 2,743 metres in length. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

As fears of a water scarcity mount in the face of attempts by India and Afghanistan to use more of the water that flows into Pakistan, the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has decided to recommend the construction of the Katzara dam, despite its preference for the Kalabagh dam.

Sources close to the authority told The Express Tribune that Irsa will recommend that the government begin dam construction immediately in order to secure the country’s water supply. Irsa will also recommend negotiating a water treaty with Afghanistan, which plans to build 12 dams on the Kabul River.

So concerned are Irsa officials about the inadequacy of Pakistan’s water storage capacity that they are willing to back the Katzara dam because their preferred Kalabagh dam is too politically controversial to be completed in the timeframe Irsa deems necessary.

“It is not Irsa’s recommendation to build Katzara dam, but we are going to table a proposal to the water and power ministry that they build Katzara dam instead of Kalabagh dam,” sources told The Express Tribune.

The proposal was first devised by former Irsa chairman Fateh Ullah Khan Gandapur, who suggested that the government create a 37 million acre feet (MAF) dam at Katzara instead of Kalabagh, to ensure that the process of building up storage capacity was not held hostage to political differences.

“If once the proposed dam is filled, the water stored in it will be enough to meet the country’s requirements for three to four years,” sources quoted the former Irsa chairman as saying at a May 16 briefing at the authority.

Gandapur was deeply concerned about India and Afghanistan’s plans to build dams and barrages that flow into Pakistan, which might reduce the amount of water available to the country. He suggested that the country needs to build storage capacity of at least 20 MAF “on a war footing.”

Among Gandapur’s other proposals was a plan to build a barrage at Kalabagh which would have the capacity to store 3 MAF and generate up to 1,500 megawatts of hydroelectric power. Sources said this proposal would also be sent to the water and power ministry for approval.

Yet apart from building up more indigenous storage capacity, Irsa will also put forth proposals to pre-empt Afghanistan’s plans to build dams on the Kabul River. The authority proposes that Pakistan divert water from the Chitral River to the Panjkora River to prevent water from entering the Kabul River.

“After diverting water from the Chitral River to the Panjkora River, a dam should be built enabling the country to receive 5 to 7 MAF water,” sources added.

Sources said that Irsa would send its recommendations to the ministry on Monday.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.

Reader Comments (3)

  • Asmat jamal
    May 19, 2011 - 1:04PM

    It is one of the best decision taken since the execution of Tarbela Dam. I have seen the site and I am sure this will be a major strategic decision in overcoming water and power crisis in the country.
    Pakistan has been held hostage to the construction of Kalabagh dam. Had Pakistan decided to move beyond this egoist project, we would not have been facing the problems today.Recommend

  • shams
    May 19, 2011 - 6:36PM

    the main contributory being the kunar river originating from chitral, pak its need to divert it n join to panjkora river witout any water accord between islamabad n kabul,Recommend

  • Tanzeem
    May 24, 2011 - 1:40PM

    The Katzara dam would flood the entire Skardu valley, including the town of Skardu. This is not a reasonable recommendation. Recommend

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