ISLAMABAD: The top court has sought a reply from the federal government regarding measures it has taken concerning the construction of water reservoirs.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan on Monday took up a two-year-old petition filed by Barrister Zafarullah, seeking directions regarding the construction of Kalabagh Dam. During the hearing, the applicant expressed fear that existing water reservoirs will be depleted by 2025.
The bench has also directed Additional Attorney General for Pakistan Waqar Rana to apprise about the government’s actions within 15 days regarding the mass awareness campaign on the significance of Kalabagh dam in view of two Council of Common Interest (CCI) decisions.
Interestingly, on January 9, 2015, a bench headed by former chief justice Nasirul Mulk, dismissed identical petitions calling for the construction of Kalabagh Dam, with the observation that it was the responsibility of the government to convene a meeting of the Council of Common Interests to resolve the issue. Likewise, the bench on August 24, 2016, dismissed a review petition on the same matter.
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During the hearing on Monday, the chief justice observed that the issue relates to the executive and what steps have been taken by the government in the prevailing situation. He also referred to a newspaper article by the late Majeed Nizami titled ‘Water Bomb’, published on May 27, 2008, wherein he highlighted how India is blocking water from entering Pakistan's rivers.
Justice Bandial remarked that there is no doubt that dams should be constructed, but there should be a consensus among provinces, adding that in 1998, there was a CCI decision to launch an awareness campaign on the significance of Kalabagh Dam. The proposed hydroelectric dam would be constructed on the Indus River at Kalabagh in Mianwali district. Intensely debated and deemed a necessity by many, the dam, if built, would have a 3,600-megawatt electricity generation capacity.
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The petitioner requested the bench to pass orders for the federal government to hold a referendum on the construction of Kalabagh Dam under Article 48.
The petitioner also pleaded the SC to open debate on the matter through the media.
Barrister Zafarullah states that India has built many dams in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty. Kalabagh Dam was firstly conceived in 1970 and its feasibility report was completed in 1984.
The petition cites Indian threat to stop all the flows from the rivers whose waters are allowed to be used by Pakistan under the treaty. India already has exclusive use of Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi.
“Unfortunately Pakistan has suffered due to provincial strife and local politics and we have not built Kalabagh Dam due to this…Kalabagh Dam would be quicker to build and has already been approved by international [lenders]…Pakistan must build at least 20 dams to address water shortages for agriculture and drinking,” it adds.