LAHORE: A million acre feet (maf) of water generates benefits worth $2 billion annually for the national economy, but Pakistan is wasting about 35 maf due to delay in construction of Kalabagh dam.
This means that Pakistan is wasting approximately $70 billion annually, an amount which is equal to the country’s external debt.
The Kalabagh dam project was due to be completed in 1993, but constant delay in construction has already cost the country $288 billion, which is a hefty sum considering the debt-ridden state of the economy.
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This was the crux of speeches delivered at a seminar on “Water and Energy Crisis and Solutions” held at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
Experts argued that the government should stop making consensus an issue and take final decision on the construction of the dam.
They decried that Kalabagh dam was being sacrificed due to some people who had vested interests, despite the fact that the dam would help prevent floods, generate energy and act as a reservoir, thus preventing drought.
Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Abdul Basit said Kalabagh dam should have been built soon after the Indus Waters Treaty because it was inevitable after losing Ravi and Sutlej rivers to India, but past governments completely ignored it.
He said the underground water level had dropped to more than 80 feet due to installation of tube wells in the valleys of Ravi and Sutlej.
He emphasised that the dam would store approximately 6 maf of water and bring benefits worth $2 billion annually.
Talking about other dams, the LCCI chief said Bhasha dam and others should also be built, but they were not an alternative to Kalabagh, as even after their construction, five districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would face water scarcity. “Technically, only Kalabagh dam can supply water to these areas,” he added.
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The dam will produce 3,600 megawatts or 31.5 billion watts of electricity that would cost only Rs2.50 per unit and the country would save $4 billion annually on account of electricity generation just after five years of the dam’s construction.
He urged the government to take final decision and start construction without wasting more time.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2017.
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