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.

  • Zulfikar

    Mr Ghori, you have not written your background or training. Even if you are an hydrological engineer, I urge you to read the expert committee report written in 2004-5. Which clearly shows that not enough water is available in the system to cater. The floods in 2010 were a natural calamity, stop advocacy of Kalabagh over the sufferings of 20 million people in Pakistan. Please stop these tactics of demoralizing the federating units of Pakistan in the name of Kalabagh. 03 assemblies of federation are against it. Blog sans reason is just distortion of facts,


  • http://none vikash kumar

    suppose if dam would so their’s our profit i don’t know why our leaders don’t want to built.india is stealing our water and we do nothingRecommend

  • farmer

    Mr Ghori likely has better training than both of us put together. ………….”03 assemblies of federation are against it” The 01 u omitted has more seats than all three combined. Shoot the article not ur foot Mr. Bloogger @Zulfikar: Recommend

  • http://Lahore Arsalan


    I saw lot of water during last flood. Had this dam been there we could saved so much for next crop seasons and also save people of Sindh from flooding.Recommend

  • Amer

    @Zulfikar: This is exactly the point of the blog, discussion is closed after emotional and rhetorical comments like yours! There should be technical discussion on the project and none of the emotional BS that’s been going on for decades. That’s why I say that this is not a issue that can be resolved by the politicians, we need technical people to work it out and no one else should speak! Recommend

  • Asmat Jamal

    Dead Horse, Dead Horse Can you run.
    No Mam, No Mam I am done.Recommend

  • Zahid Hussain

    Wel said dear Zulfiqar.
    I am sure the day an ordinary person of Punjab knew the fact, they will also oppose this dam, because this is not technically proven because of more than several reasons, if someone has read the report quoted by Zulfiqar, I think he would not raise any immature comment. No country in world can afford to build the dam for floods, and please be advised dams cannot handle floods like 2010.Recommend

  • Adnan

    @vikash kumar:
    I join hands with you on thisRecommend

  • Adnan

    Country is full of pessimists and your comments have added one more in the list. I think it is simple to find out if there is enough water in the system or not. Use google map to find out the location and calculate the flow at that point. It is not a rocket science anymore. It needs some research and some benchmarks.

    I can send you pictures of dams consist of 5-6 gates having not more than 40 to 70 meters width in Sweden. Sweden does not have any river like in Pakistan though they have built so many dams across the country. Those dams are so small which only covers a little factory or small villages around it. Dams are absolutely no issues now a days. We just need some flowing water and thats it. Dam design can be decided according to the yearly flow. Recommend

  • Akhunzada

    can you please post the address to the committee report or atleast mention the complete title of the report. he only report of 2005 that i found was http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?116945


  • Arif

    Dam should not be built ,because it takes away water of sindh!

    And punjabis want to exploit other provinces!!Recommend

  • qaisar farooq

    Hi Arif, i feel really sorry on your comment, if you have some reservations over the Dam issue then please express your reservations in a good way.Please do not use term Punjabi,Sindhi again, We are all Pakistani dear,now its time to think bigger and just for Pakistan.be unite my dear,all of us in problems these days but bro we are bigger then the problems.love to see your loving reply. Love you all my Pakistani people, stay unite be brave,future is ours.Recommend

  • Akhunzada

    Yes dear brother we respect your views but lets look at the bigger picture. Please read this too http://pakneeds.com/infopedia/blog6.php/2011/40bn-lost-in-kalabagh-damRecommend

  • Adnan

    I would like to share a link of the principle the Dam works and it consumes no water. It is just a fall of water. Potential energy is converted into rotational energy of turbine. Its not like a water evaporating process like in Nuclear power plants.


    This type of dam can be built everywhere along a river or where water flows. This is the golden turn in the history when nuclear way of building energy is losing its fame. Each country is looking forward to clean energy. Those countries talk about Solar and Wind who dont have rivers(water flowing energy). but those who have should take advantage of it.Recommend

  • Arif

    Sindhi depends upon indus water which recedes badly in summer!
    Pakhtooons,sindhi,muhajirs,balochis dont want this dam!!
    Go and make dam in Azad kashmir.!
    But Indus belongs to sindh as the name says!!


    Jiye Sindh!!Recommend

  • Zahid Hussain

    Please do not put in immature comments. I also belong to interior Sindh and have great love my motherland Sindh, and I love Pakistan too the degree, and we have to think nationaly.

    I never support the construction of Kalabagh dam, and I have genuine reasons to convince our brothers in Punjab, not by only saying Indus belong to us thatswhy you should not build Kalabagh dam.

    @ Adnan
    There are two main method of using water resources for power generation i.e. dam and run-of-river. May be your explaination is towards run-of-river. We the people of Sindh have never cried upon construction of run-of-river and example is Ghazi Barotha. This project is operational having capability of 1450MW, and may be you have not heard this name, since it was not an issue to any province including Sindh.

    Kalagagh dam is being construction with mal-intentions of political and landlords of Punjab and iff those are made public, I am sure our brothers of Punjab will oppose the construction of Kalabagh dam by themselves. Recommend

  • Adnan

    @Zahid Hussain:
    Thanks for the addition. I still could not catch the reason of opposing Kalabagh dam. Whether its a run of river or normal hydroelectric dam. In dams water is stored and released while in run of river natural water flow provides enough energy to run the turbine.
    What i was trying to say, in western europe its hard to find rivers with so much flow so its “storage dam” which is the preference. The small dams im talking about in sweden might be designed for run of river coz of very low flow.

    You are right, ghazi barotha is run of flow dam and that means?
    best regardsRecommend

  • Zulfikar

    @farmer: The technical committee report was asked by the then President in 2005 and it is called as Abbasi Report on Kalabagh Dam. It might not be available on internet, interested may review the IRSA archives.
    The people who have replied to my point with fake names of farmers and growers, threatening that 01 province has more seats than rest of the provinces combined. Please be informed that this is not the first time individuals of your clout have undermined the will of people living outside the “holy part” of Pakistan. You have been doing it since inception of country.
    I again urge the blogger and people of farmer background that undermining the will of Sindh, KPK and Balochistan will get you nowhere. Blogging here will also not serve the purpose.
    If you wish to build it then go ahead and we shall see how you do it.Recommend

  • Zahid Hussain

    If you really ask me the genuine reason of opposing Kalabagh. To my personal point of view it is definitely “TRUST DEFICIT” which has been led to grow and everyday.

    We used to see reports in local newapapers about IRSA proceedings, and almost daily walk out by representatives of small provinces, but I did not notice any national media reporting about this big issue. May be they do not care about it. The walk out of representative of small provinces is only because treaty of 1991 is not respected by Punjab, and telemetry system was introducted in order to monitor the water flow at different location and respect the 1991 tready, but it did not work since day one and everybody working with WAPDA water wing knows the reasons behind it.

    The people of small provices believe that Punjab is stealing their water allocated in 1991 treaty, and if given more chances, they will do more.

    The small provices strongly cry in IRSA that Punjab does not share short fall in the year, when there is naturally less water in system. Punjab takes more or atleast due share and balance is released for others, and no care of taken about others.

    The theory that alot of quantity of water is fallen into ocean every year is based on mal intentions and why not our national media bring this fact to the nation.

    The theory that if there was Kalabagh dam , flood might not had caused so destruction. Oh God, what a foolish statement. Such floods cannot be handled by such dams. If somebody want to know in detail please let me know, I shall share my personal information.

    Chashma Jhelum link canal was built, and then Sindh opposed, Punjab constructed it by force and named it as a flood, means whenever there will be flood (excessive water) this canal will be operational, but infact this canal is operational through out the years, TRUST DEFICIT is made everyday, but when there was real flood in 2010 the canal named FLOOD CANAL was OFF (please refer to EX- LIVE WITH TALAT HUSSAIN ON AAJ NEWS who break this news)

    Concerning your question about Kalabagh Dam, dear friend it is a dam of storage capacity of around 6MAC, while run-of-river project have no storage, but the water is just collected in small pond just provide head for water turbine, which is common engineering method in both.Recommend

  • rizwan

    my dear friends

    some of the friends very rightly pointed out that sindh is the province which is suffering most from the lack of water
    acutally India is funding about 5 billion rupess to anti kalabagh dam…..to bring us to the point of water and shortage we have reached

    please note following

    hunger will not discrfiminate between a punjabi, sindhi, pathan and etc…and inshallah due to our “Amals” we are heading towards it
    similarly the bullet of india will not discriminate between a punjabi, sindhi and pathan….first She will starve us to the extent that we dont make any resistance(alraedy building dams on pakistani river)
    the current loadshedding and unemployment is not discriminating between punjabi, sindhi and pathan etc
    actually the Waderas of all the provinces have ensalved the ppl and letting them not come out as independent……they are following the policy of DIVIDE and Rule
    the life of a common punjabi is as miserable as any other ethnic

    my request is that please understand the real issue and dont go by slogans


    hunger and bullet of india

    will not discriminate between punjabi,sindhi and pathanRecommend

  • rizwan

    more over if Kalabagh dam is to be built it can be built as carry over dam with no canals and water can be given to the provinces according to water accord.
    Just generation of elecricity will save us 300 billion annually which can be spent on roads,education and healthRecommend

  • amjad

    aoa , all

    No one here is expert on water issuses . we just beleive wat our affiliated Political Leaders says . and then we also blam that people from FATA are illitrate as thay beleive wat IMAM MASJID says , without research . just look into our own deeds .we r not better then them as for as national interest comes .

    I request all in this forum to search from ethentic hydro power engineers . PLZ donot go bye polical leaders , they ALL are more affiliated to their own MONEY MAKING GAMES . No one is concerned to PAKISTAN , they all have 1st option to live in DUBAI , SWISS , LONDON ,. only we COMMON MAN will be living here , So plz think , do not go bye politition as they also donot have any knowledge of hydro power and they just give statmemnts. this action of them is as a cobblers goes to doctor and tells him that from today on ward you will not use some particular medicen , PLZ JUST USE UR OWN BRAIN and find answers from technicle people and not from political people.byeRecommend

  • bilal

    i think this dam shud not be built….bcoz it will minimize the water ti sindh and because less water will go to the sea ….thatta and badin which are very low lying areas will go down in the seaRecommend