Sindh's legal fraternity opposes dams on Indus river

Published: September 18, 2018
Representational image of workers at dam construction site. PHOTO: REUTERS

Representational image of workers at dam construction site. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI/ HYDERABAD: The Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) announced its opposition to any move to build dams on Indus River without the consent of Sindh, citing inter-provincial disputes between Punjab and Sindh on water sharing since 1859. The legal fraternity of SHCBA also held a demonstration in Hyderabad on Monday to express its disapproval.

“The SHCBA, keeping in view the water disputes between Sindh and Punjab and perusing Articles 153, 154 and 155 of the Constitution, strongly condemns violation of the said articles,” reads a three-page resolution signed by SHCBA Vice President Advocate Syed Muhammad Waseem Shah and General Secretary Advocate Ishrat Ali Lohar.

Lawyers from 14 districts of Sindh’s Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah divisions are members of SHBCA, Hyderabad.

The resolution further blamed the Centre of not only violating the Constitution, but usurping Sindh’s rights of the co-sharer and beneficiary as the lower riparian of the Indus river system. “… while perusing several reports, decisions of the committees and commissions constituted before and after Independence … [the bar] is of the opinion that Sindh is facing sheer violation of its rights on Indus since 1859 and Punjab is taking its water illegally.”

The resolution referred to the 1901 India Irrigation Commission, 1919 Cotton Committee, 1935 Anderson Committee and 1941 Rao Commission of the pre-Independence era. It also cited the 1968 Akhtar Hussain Committee, 1970 Fazal Akbar Commission, 1981 Anwarul Haq Commission and 1983 Haleem Commission.

“The SHCBA condemns and opposes the projects in the name of dams or canals on Indus River [which are built] without the consent of Sindh.” The resolution also mentioned the April, 2016 report of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Planning and Development which surveyed sea intrusion in Sindh.

It pointed out that of the around 770-kilometer stretch of the coast from Sir Creek in Sindh to Jeewani in Balochistan, a 254 km area from Sir Creek to Karachi had been affected or was vulnerable to the intrusion. The standing committee’s survey was assisted by the Pakistan Navy, National Institute of Oceanography and Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Centre.

SC to take up contentious Kalabagh dam case on June 9

“The contention that the water released into the sea is lost is incorrect and nothing but a lie,” the resolution reads. “The SHCBA, Hyderabad strongly believes that the flow of water to the sea isn’t a loss but it’s a need of the delta.” The legal fraternity pointed to tens of thousands of acres of land which has been eaten by the sea in Thatta, Sujawal and Badin districts.

The bar underscored that any dam or canal built without the approval of Sindh and without addressing the water disputes between Punjab and Sindh from 1859 to 2018 will not be acceptable.

Another resolution

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Nawab Taimour Talpur submitted a resolution against the Kalabagh Dam after the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s remarks that Pakistan’s survival is in building the dam.

Expressing concern over the matter, the PPP MPA said, “It is a known fact that the people of Sindh, irrespective of political affiliation, have opposed and negated the construction of Kalabagh more than once.”

Not only Sindh, but Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have also rejected this controversial project, he stated, adding that such an announcement [in favour of the dam] from different quarters, makes them feel insecure as being affectees of dams and canals by upper riparian, they have suffered a lot.

He expressed the belief the dam will ruin the economy and agriculture of Sindh and the Indus Delta will be vanished with sea intrusion. “The people of Sindh who are protesting against it are being threatened of invoking Article 6 of the Constitution. Therefore, this assembly resolves that now any decision for this dam on Indus will be against three federating units, Sindh, KP and Balochistan and the construction of Kalabagh be stopped forever,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2018.

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