Kalabagh Dam: RIP

Pakistan has seen one of the worst floods ever in its history but instead of focusing on the issue at hand, our leaders are making matters worse by digging up skeletons like the Kalabagh Dam (KBD) issue. Prime Minister Gilani recently said that the deaths and destruction caused by the floods could have been averted had the KBD been built but he also admitted that “the issue of KBD should not be raised now” as the nation is passing through critical times. It was gracious of Mr Gilani not to raise the ‘KBD issue’ by actually raising it. One wonders why some leaders have come out with pro-KBD statements days after the massive floods hit the country. Have they no consideration for the sentiments of the other three provinces, which have passed several resolutions in their respective provincial assemblies against the dam, especially in this time of high crisis?

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain called the KBD project “a dead horse” and said that it goes against the “interests of the country”. Mr Hussain’s most chilling words, “Is there no Pakistan on this side of Attock?” amply demonstrate the insensitivity on this issue towards the three dissenting provinces. Sindh’s politicians and technocrats have also dismissed the project. Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palejo said that had the KBD been built, “the whole Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would have been destroyed”. Now these are serious statements emanating from both within the PPP and its coalition partners. If not for the sentiments of the three smaller provinces, the advocates of the dam should at least have a look at its technical aspects before claiming that it could have saved the lives of the flood victims. According to experts, around 30 million acre feet (MAF) of water reached downstream Kotri during these floods and the KBD “would have stored only six MAF of water”. This raises serious doubts about the feasibility of building a dam that would not only be of little help in such catastrophes but is also a major bone of contention amongst the provinces.

Why can the government not concentrate on the huge task of rescue, rehabilitation and reconstruction instead of harping on about the KBD, which has possibly passed beyond the pale of possibility? We do not need any more diversions and should instead focus on the relief and rehabilitation work. The well-being of the country demands that we let the KBD issue rest once and for all.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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