'Thatta’s proposed barrage may cause more harm than good'

Dr Abbas calls for replacing canal system with piped water supply system


​ Our Correspondent February 17, 2020
A boat stranded on the shore of Thatta after a flood. PHOTO: EXPRESS

HYDERABAD: The proposed Sindh Barrage project in Thatta district has been drawing repudiation from many stakeholders and experts since the idea was floated last year. Hydrologist Dr Hassan Abbas, who holds a PhD in hydrology and water resources from the Michigan State University, US, echoed similar concerns about the barrage during a lecture organised by Awami Tehreek on Friday.

"The Sindh Barrage will cause more harm than good for the people," he asserted.

According to the project proposal prepared by the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the barrage will be built 45 kilometres upstream of the Arabian Sea in Thatta district. Around 56,500 acres of land will have to be acquired for the barrage, with a canal being constructed on either side of it. The Sindh government has accepted the Centre's proposal for the barrage to be constructed at a cost of around Rs125 billion.

"The system of barrages and canals has become outdated," argued Dr Abbas, pointing out the existing water shortage upstream of the Kotri Barrage in Jamshoro. "From where will the proposed downstream barrage get water?" he further questioned.

Dr Abbas said that policymakers in the power sector devised projects to serve the interests of a few influential people while the public interest was not given due consideration.

The hydrologist condoned the replacement of the canal system by the modern piped water supply system, claiming that agricultural land could be irrigated with less than half of the water currently being supplied through the canals if the piped water supply system was adopted.

"People in Punjab and Sindh are misguided about dams and other water-related projects to get their consent for the schemes," he said, referring to his interaction with Lahore-based experts who believed that the controversial Kalabagh Dam project would increase water supply to their city. He said that he had explained to those people that geographically, it was not possible for their city to benefit from the dam. "Similarly, people in other parts of the country are misguided about the projects that only end up increasing problems."

He reiterated the need for starting river navigation projects for freight transportation to help lessen the burden on the Karachi port, as well as reliance on road and railway. According to him, a river port could be built in Jhirk, Thatta, where freight ships can be offloaded.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2020.

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