Kalabagh Dam: A lingering controversy

Published: April 3, 2011

The construction of proposed Kalabagh dam evokes strong opposition in some parts of the country while it receives support from other sections of our society.

The provinces had been at odds with each other on the proposed hydroelectric project conceived decades ago, stipulating building of another dam on the Indus River, having the capacity to generate 3,600 MW electricity, besides serving as a major water reservoir.

The debate surrounding the project is wide-ranging, from the very need to build large dams to fair compensation for displaced persons to the adverse environmental and social impacts. A few studies are available on these subjects but they all contradict each other and none has been accepted as authentic by all parties.

The net result is ever-increasing sufferings of this nation of 180 million souls, now going through the agony of prolonged power outages, water shortages and much more. Social and economic implications of this indecisiveness on the part of successive regimes have only added to the miseries of the people.

Former President Pervez Musharraf, whose nine year tenure is blamed for current power crisis, made some statements in support of the dam but then backed out. After the 2008 elections, the  then-water and power minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, announced that the project is cancelled due to opposition from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

After this announcement, Kalabagh Dam seemed to be a closed chapter but in fact it is not. After the devastating 2010 floods, which inundated one-fifth of the country, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani said: “Had the Kalabagh dam been built the devastation from flood would have been averted.”

Most of the comments for and against the project are based more on rhetoric than any scientific logic. The ambivalence is serving none but costing the country dearly.

Irfan Ghauri

Irfan Ghauri

A correspondent for The Express Tribune in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.