Tarbela’s capacity reduced by 30 per cent, Senate body told

  • WAPDA chairman says Pakistan has water storage capacity of only 30 days against India’s 170 days
  • Urges construction of Kalabagh Dam after political consensus

ISLAMABAD: Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Chairman Lt Gen (r) Chaudhry Muzamil on Wednesday said that water storage capacity of Tarbela Dam had reduced by 30 per cent, while 25 million acre-feet (MAF) of water were being wasted annually in the country.

He made this disclosure while briefing a panel of Senate on Wednesday and said that India has a 170-day water storage capacity while Pakistan has the storage capacity for only 30 days.

The meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Water was held under the chairmanship of Senator Shamim Afridi at the Parliament House on Wednesday and was attended among others by Senators Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Syed Sabir Shah, Quratul Ain Marri, Agha Shahzeb Durrani, Gianchand, Syed Shibli Faraz, Indus River System Authority (IRSA) Chairman Ahmed Jamal and IRSA members from all provinces and other officials.

Though water needs are increasing in the country, there is less water storage availability to quench the thirst and to meet the future needs, said WAPDA chairman.

Urging political consensus on the construction of dams to cater ever-increasing water needs of the country, the chairman said that India has 943 dams whereas Pakistan has only 155 dams. He also made it clear that WAPDA will construct Kalabagh Dam if the political consensus is developed.

“If all political parties develop consensus to build Kalabagh Dam, then it must be constructed,” said the chairman. He added that if Kalabagh is constructed, then its operational control should be in the hands of Sindh as it fears that Punjab will steal its share of water.

Muzamil also informed the Senate committee that WAPDA was facing difficulties to start work on Diamer-Bhasha dam as the land of dam site was divided between Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and landowners were causing problems. He added that locals start firing shots whenever work is started on the site.

“So far, 12 persons have been killed and WAPDA has spent Rs80 billion on the project,” the chairman informed. He also complained that the government is not cooperating with WAPDA to get the matter resolved.

The Senate Standing Committee on Water was also informed that any country that has 1,000 cubic meters of water available per capita is categorised in water-scarce countries, and per capita, water availability in Pakistan at present is 903 cubic meters. This average per capita water availability was around 5,000 cubic meters back in 1951.

The committee was told that out of 35,409 million acre feet (MAF) reservoirs in the whole world, 1,577 MAF is in South Asia and only 145 MAF in Pakistan.

The chairman, in his briefing, also told the meeting that 25-35 per cent of country’s water comes from rains and 65-75 per cent from glaciers in the northern parts. He observed that 60 per cent of the country’s population was directly engaged in agriculture and livestock and despite being included in 15 most water-scarce countries, Pakistan had one of the most water-intensive agriculture with the fourth highest rate of use of water.

90 per cent of the country’s water is used in agriculture and the need of the hour is to take this matter up in the Council of Common Interests as to how overuse of water in irrigation can be reduced, and the same can be used for domestic needs.

Talking about the Indus cascade, he termed it the most precious asset for the country. He said that the Indus enters Pakistan at an altitude of 8,430 feet and gives a drop of 7,030 feet till Kalabagh at an altitude of 1,400 feet, giving multiple sites along the stretch for building reservoirs and run of the river projects.

The committee was given an account of the projects under process by WAPDA which include kachi canal (PH-1) commissioned in September 2017, Nai Gaj Dam to be completed by June 2019, Muzaffargarh and TP link canal to be completed by June 2019 and RBOD-I and III to be completed by November 2019. RBOD-II is to be worked upon by the Sindh government and not WAPDA.

The committee was given details of short term, medium term and long term water reservoirs and run of the river hydro-power projects to meet futuristic needs of the country. These include reservoirs and hydropower projects in Nai Gaj, Naulong, Bara, Tank Zam, Diamer-Bhasha, Mohmand, Kurram Tangi II, Chiniot, Shyok, Dhudhnial, Skardu, Akhori, Rohtas and other small and big dams.

The chairman and members of the committee assured WAPDA and IRSA of all-out support for approvals and work on any and all projects for the welfare of the people.