Thatta and Badin may cease to exist in 30 years if dams are built, warn speakers

Published: March 16, 2012

The fishermen at the seminar fumed as they referred to the dunes of sand which filled the riverbed, where water had once flowed. PHOTO: FILE

HYDERABAD / KARACHI: The demand to get rid of unnatural control and storage projects from rivers, especially from the River Indus, echoed at a seminar held on Wednesday, to mark the International Day of Action for Rivers (IDAR).

Hundreds of fishermen and a few representatives of civil society attended the event, arranged at an old tourist attraction on Kotri Barrage, Al-Manzar.

The fishermen fumed and some even burst out in rage, as they referred to the dunes of sand which filled the riverbed, where water had once flowed.

“The fishermen will hold protests, walks, seminars, and other events from March 14 till April 1 against the construction of Bhasha Dam, and to demand the decommissioning of all the dams built on the Indus River,” announced the chairman of the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, Muhammad Ali Shah. “The people of Sindh will have to raise their voice if they want to save their civilisation. If there is no river, there will be no civilisation.”

IDAR is observed separately from World Water Day which falls on March 22. “There are two groups of people, one which marks the day to promote their interests by offering solutions for water conservation, through dams or other means,” said Shah. “The other group is made of the communities affected by the construction of dams, water scarcity, river pollution and ecological imbalance.” He held the first group responsible for the adversities faced by the second. “There is a nexus between construction companies, international financial institutions, environmental consultants and the corrupt bureaucrats and politicians,” he alleged.

Shah referred to studies which proved that the emission of methane gas from reservoir surfaces, spillways and turbines of dams also contribute a great deal to global warming. According to him, the dams prevented the rivers from completing their hydrological cycle by flowing towards the sea naturally, consequently damaging the environment. “Over three million acres of land was lost because of sea intrusion in Badin and Thatta,” he said. “The Indus delta has been destroyed and mangroves depleted.”

The activists who have been protesting against the construction of Kalabagh Dam, Greater Thul Canal and other projects on the Indus River, demanded that at least 35 million acre feet of water be discharged downstream from Kotri. They argued, with evidence though, that the decrease in water discharge had taken away livelihoods of thousands of fishermen, agriculturists and other associated professions in Jamshoro, Thatta and Badin districts.

A researcher, Jami Chandio, said that in the next two to three decades, the two tail-ender districts – Thatta and Badin – may not exist if the sea continued to intrude inland at the current rate. He claimed that the sea had already entered the underground water in Tando Muhammad Khan district.

Zulfiqar Halepoto of the Sindh Democratic Forum criticised the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for breaking its promise, made during the Anti-Greater Thul Canal Movement to oppose any new dams built on the Indus River. He said that although the PPP was able to overcome the challenges of passing the watershed constitutional amendments it could not form a water policy acceptable to all the stakeholders.

He highlighted that even the United Nations did not provide any set of regulations for control or use of the rivers and asked the government legislate a National Rivers and Water Act for protecting the water lifeline, establishing local control, opposing commercial trade and among other laws.

Karachi

Two position papers – Water in River Indus Downstream Kotri and Manchar Lake – were launched at the event organised by Karachi by the Friends of Indus Forum (FIF) in collaboration with WWF Pakistan.

A documentary, “We All Live Downstream” was also screened to depict the deplorable picture in different parts of the world. It showed that dams had adversely affected biodiversity and harmed the indigenous communities. “Save a river – save a life, beauty, culture and home” was the message.

While describing the Indus Water Treaty as an ‘irreversible loss,’ the speakers demanded improvements in future policies and strategies on water conservation. “Our focus must be on sustaining the present agriculture,” said the former federal minister and water expert ANG Abbasi. The treaty had granted India the right to irrigate 1.3 million acres of land without any restriction on consumption.

However, Karamat Ali, the executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, wished that the treaty be done away with. “We murdered the rivers by agreeing to divide resources granted by nature,” he said.

Abbasi said that the environmental conditions and ecosystems of Indus Delta had deteriorated drastically which was very alarming. The damage was not documented hence the current water conditions could not be estimated. “No further commitment should be made without considering the environmental needs of our ecosystem,” he said.

Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo said that the last two years were very significant in terms of studying the impacts of climate change. Pakistan had witnessed devastating floods in 2010 and 2011 and rehabilitation of flood-affected people and draining water from the areas were two big challenges.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • aimla tirmizi
    Mar 16, 2012 - 11:43AM

    this is a very important issue. one that would determine the lives and honour of the indeignios people of river indus. consensus needs to be built to avert the looming disaster and to bring balance between need to address energy issue with that of sea intrusion .
    great work fisherfolk forum for raising awareness

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  • wahab
    Mar 16, 2012 - 2:46PM

    so now we should not make bhasha dam also? Did u see floods last year? These people are such fools!

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  • salman
    Mar 16, 2012 - 7:00PM

    @wahab:
    please provide details to support your statement.

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  • Mar 16, 2012 - 7:37PM

    Surprising that even the Sindhis who will be most affected by Diamer Dam do not oppose its construction. They need to realize that it is the land of GB which will be submerged now – but long term and permanent damage is theirs as well. We all destroy ourselves, so Punjab can get a little electricity.

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  • Idiot Basher
    Mar 16, 2012 - 8:10PM

    @Senge Sering: For years Sindh and especially Karachi have been importing over 700MW of power from Punjab while industries and homes remained in a constant state of blackout within Punjab. Stop spewing your uneducated ignorant nonsense until you have done your research first.

    As to those opposing dams, the glaciers and peaks are fast melting, where will your water come from when it is all gone? Recommend

  • MK
    Mar 16, 2012 - 10:21PM

    @Senge Sering:

    Electricity is used by all Pakistan; people of GB and Northern KP need it a lot to heat their homes in winters instead of destroying forests. Sindh’s capital Karachi which is also economic hub needs it more than any city in the country. Water is important for irrigation in Sindh and Punjab. Dams do not stop water permanantly. Water is only stored temporarily to generate enough pressure, which is then used to turn the generators. It eventually FLOWS through and ends up in rivers. However, lack of proper water management is main problem. We have flood problem in monsoon season and shortage in other months. We could have left things to nature if we were living in ancient times. In this time and age we need irrigation and electricity to feed and support a very fast growing population. Fishermen and people along coastline in Sindh have a very valid concern. In fact lack of Dams is causing flooding and coastline erosion. We need to store as much water as possible by building many more dams for monsoon season and during summer when snow melts in the mountains, and maintain a steady flow to avoid coastline erosion and water in rivers all year round. Right now extra water floods entire country and in dry season there is not enough to maintain constant flow in rivers that causes coastline erosion and dry river beds. People who are giving biggest sacrifice are ones living in areas that get effected by construction of dams. Recommend

  • H Chaudhry
    Mar 17, 2012 - 3:19AM

    As an expat working for one of the largest US Electric Utilities that generates most of it power from Hydro, reading comments and artcles where people are still questioning Dams is shameful ! Not only that this is an ignorant view but considering last years floods and a huge amount of Water wasted in Sea, any one who is still worried about Politices of Dams, perhaps do not deserve to live in 21st Century.

    Electricity is not generated for Punjab, idiots ! It is generated for whole of Pakistan. The electricity runs Mills, Tube wells, factories, shops. It is needed for economic growth and for the masses to come out of Poverty.

    Lets talk about Sindh ! Only province left in Paksitan where we still have Feudal system. Waderas are almost like God to these poor Sindhies. People like Amin Fahim (winning from years) do not even live in Pakistan. He lives in Dubai, while Hala do not even have a road or electrictiy. Yet. it is these Wadehars who are abusin their people against these dams.

    Wake up people, stop this ignorance. You need Dams. The produce cheapest and cleanest form of Electricity. The future will be all about Water, there will be Wars on Water. Save Water save yourself !

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  • Maulana Tharra
    Mar 17, 2012 - 4:36AM

    “I bought things which I didn’t need, with the money I didn’t have, to impress people I didn’t like.” (A bankrupt businessman’s explanation for going bankcruptcy.)

    We borrow and beg money to build these white elephant type monuments and bankrupt the country.
    Even today the affectees of Mangla have not been settled and compensated.
    Who benefits from these projects? The bureaucrat awarding the contracts and Multi nationals building the projects.
    Who suffers? Poor people of Pakistan.
    Anyone who opposes these projects is of course RAW and CIA’s agent! Just ask the All knowing Purvayors of Wisdom and patriotism!Recommend

  • ParvezM
    Mar 17, 2012 - 5:32AM

    This writer is confused in this writing. Don’t worry nothing is going to be built. Feudals would take care of at every turn.

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  • H chaudhry
    Mar 17, 2012 - 10:15AM

    @Maulana “Who benefits from these projects” really dude ? Ok so the little electricity you get is from these dams. They are not white elephants, the departments running them are ! I guess like Taliban (animals) you like to live in dark and stone ages but think about your children and future because there seems none right now. Bankruptcy is because of people not the plants. Cheapest and Cleanst energy is from hydro. Not making dams and buying super expensive energy from IPPs is not only crime but it is also Kaufman-e-naimst. Wake up and use the water god has given us!Recommend

  • Maulana tharra
    Mar 17, 2012 - 12:21PM

    @H chaudhry:

    “The USGS has spent more than 100 years monitoring the nation’s rivers and streams and providing the hydrologic data needed to design the nation’s infrastructure of dams,”said Robert M. Hirsch, USGS chief hydrologist, Reston, Va. “Today, the era of dam building in the United States is largely over and the USGS has turned some of its monitoring and research focus towards providing dam managers and resource planners with the kind of in-depth information they need to reduce some of the more harmful downstream effects of dams on river environments.” (An excerpt from US Geological Survey Report)

    You claim and I quote *”As an expat working for one of the largest US Electric Utilities that generates most of it power from Hydro….”

    OK, just check the links below.

    http://205.254.135.7/electricity/monthly/epmtablegrapher.cfm?t=epmt11

    http://205.254.135.7/energyinbrief/images/charts/usenergyconsumptionbyenergy_source-large.jpg

    These are the links to US Energy Information Administration. You can google US EIA as well.
    According to it’s statistics, US electricity production is about 2.8% by hydro power and it is steadily decreasing. They have yearly tables on line by source of electricity.
    You should dispute these figures with US EIA since your information must be more up to date compared to US EIA!!
    And of course you are great expat patriot who’s heart is aching for Pakistan and I must be CIA or RAW’s agent!! Or may be working for both, who knows!!
    If the Dams were so great a success then why the “experts” want new dams on the pretext that the old ones are degrading and losing capacity due to silting?
    What a spectacular success these dams are!!

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  • H Chaudhry
    Mar 17, 2012 - 8:42PM

    @Maulana 2.8% is plenty of energy from dams for a country that consumes about 20% of energy worldwide. That is not the point. Instead of looking at USA as whole, lets look at the USA by geogrpahic regions. States of Washington and Tennessee where the rivers are most suitable for Dams, almost 50% of energy is produced by the Dams. Check Bonneville Power Authority and Tennessee Valley Authority. This is the cheapest power in USA, I know that because I am right in the middle of debate here with respect to Energy Efficieny and Conservation.

    Now after 100 years of existence any plant will have negative environmental effects, question is DO we need to care for these environmental effects or do we need to care about economic growth that will eventually allow enough capital to retrofit these plants with equipment that decreases environmental impacts.

    To me environmentalism is as bad as Terrorism. You need to put things into prespective ! Lets talk about Pakistan electricity needs, shall we ?

    What is the most effective, economical way of producing power that has minimal environmental effect and carbon release ? It is not Solar because Sun doesnt always shine, it is not Wind, since Wind doesnt always blow. It is may be Nuclear but good luck having a nuclear plant.

    That leaves you with either Hydor or Fossil Fuel (Oil / Natural Gas) fired power plants. You tell me which one is more easy for Pakistan to make with least investment.

    And yes these DAMS are Monumental Successes. As a Power professional they are Spectacular pieces of engineering and human quest. Do a google on Hoover Dam, Lake Shaver Dam, and many mant more in Pacific NorthWest ! The people who runs these dams find them the gifts larger than life.

    As for EPA no one cares about it ! Its a bogus organization that promotes environmentalism at expense of people livelihood.

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  • Inam
    Mar 19, 2012 - 8:11AM

    flood season brings 10 to 100 MAF of extra water in Indus river(36 MAF average). Pakistan must bulid large dams to ensure plenty of water in the river during early kharif season, and necessasry flow for delta around the year.

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