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Dams vital for food security
 By  Mohammad Jamil

Dams vital for food security:-Pakissan.comFifty percent population of Pakistan is malnourished and more than fifty eight per cent is food insecure, said Vice Chancellor Islamia University of Bahawalpur Muhammad Mukhtar while addressing the International conference on Biochemical and Chemical sciences.

It is indeed an alarming situation, which emerged due to inept rulers that never gave serious attention to this very important issue. 

Many countries have launched security and agriculture programs aimed at making sustainable improvements in farming production and resource utilization through skills improvement in growing, processing and marketing practices.

Some of them have successfully improved food security for populations at risk through technical interventions in areas such as post-harvest management; processing and storage; animal husbandry; agricultural marketing; bullock traction; agro-forestry and inventory credit.

In Pakistan, food security is directly related to water security, as Pakistan is among countries likely to face shortage of water for irrigation and domestic usage.

In the absence of mega water reservoir like Kala Bagh Dam – a multipurpose natural dam site, Pakistan would face acute shortage of water, which will exacerbate food insecurity.

No doubt Kala Bagh Dam is technically the most feasible dam, but due to political dissent and trust deficit it has been abandoned.

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Main concerns from Sindh and KPK are related to abuse of water quota, which may be addressed through Indus River System Authority (IRSA).

In March 2010, Chief minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah had said that Sindh wanted the implementation of the 1991 Water Accord.

“In fact there should be no conflict over sharing of water shortages and all provinces should share the shortage of water in accordance with 1991 water accord”. There is need to resolve the issue through Council of Common Interest (CCI).

The water disputes between Sindh and Punjab have not emerged now, as these date back even prior to the creation of Pakistan as early as 1900.

After Water Accord 1991, inter-provincial differences over water-sharing came to surface in 1994, 2001 and 2003.

The row had emanated from the irrigation works under the Indus water treaty when Chashma-Jhelum link canal was built which was to serve as a non-perennial canal to off-take extra water from Indus to river Jhelum after the needs of Sindh had been met.

Reportedly, the conflict intensified when this link canal was converted to a perennial canal even when the needs of Sindh had not been met.

The 1991 water accord was signed amongst the four provinces on March 16, 1991 and was approved by the CCI on March 21, 1991.

Unfortunately, serious differences emerged in 1994 when there was an exceptional decline in the rainfall, which created serious water shortages.

To meet this unusual situation, the then federal minister for water and power Ghulam Mustafa Khar, had convened an inter-provincial ministerial meeting in 1994 in which it was decided that Punjab and Sindh would be entitled to use water in proportion in which they used water during the 1977-82 period.

This illogical distribution attracted opposition from Sindh, which took the plea that the four provinces should share water shortages on the basis of 1991 water accord and not on the basis of the historical use.

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The official record suggests that Sindh accepted the 1994 arrangement under protest, as its water supply was subsequently reduced by 18 per cent under the ‘historical use’ formula, while that of Punjab actually increased by 8 per cent.

After the ouster of the Nawaz government in October 1999, Sindh requested IRSA to seek a legal position of 1994 ministerial decision.

The law ministry sent a report to the then chief executive General Pervez Mushrraf on October 25, 2000, saying that the 1994 decision had no legal status and its implementation was against the 1991 Accord.

The Ministry of Water and Power, also notified on June 28, 2001 that the decision of the 1994 inter-provincial meeting stands annulled.

Despite this clear-cut ruling of the law ministry and the notification of the competent authority, status quo has been maintained on this burning issue, which gave rise to the distrust between the provinces.

Apart from water thievery by India through construction of controversial dams, prolonged drought during the winter and mismanagement of water resources are the causes behind the looming water crisis.

The nation has recently witnessed Thar tragedy where scores of children have died and hundreds of thousands residents are suffering due to drought. If large reservoirs like Diamer-Bhasha are not constructed on war-footing, other parts of Pakistan could face drought.

It is criminal negligence on the part of our successive governments that they have not been able to build any major reservoir after Mangla and Tarbela whose storage capacity is shrinking due to silt each passing day.

One does not have to be an agricultural scientist to know that water is indispensable to agriculture. It is a critical input into agriculture of a country especially when it is situated in an arid or semi-arid zone.

Loss of storage capacity due to sedimentation in Tarbela and Mangla Dams is causing serious drop even for existing agricultural production.

Food shortages and energy shortfall has already blighted Pakistan with the result that industry in all the provinces has also been adversely impacted.

Anyhow, the construction of Bhasha Dam along with other dams is vital not only for our survival but also for enhancing the agricultural output and for increasing overall industrial productivity.

Successful completion of the Diamer-Bhasha dam would help develop agriculture and also generate cheap energy for industrial development.

The plus point is that the Bhasha Dam will eliminate flood hazards to a great extent and will reduce sedimentation in Tarbela reservoir, thereby improving the storage capacity and power output at Tarbela.

However, Pakistan should also look for alternatives. There is consensus amongst agriculturist scientists that dam-based canal irrigation is an obsolete technology that cannot meet 21st century’s needs.

It must therefore be replaced by sprinkler and drip irrigation, distributed through pressurized plastic pipes. This approach has enabled Israel to irrigate the desert.

And this system can enable Pakistan to triple the irrigated area with its existing water resources and avoid water scarcity.

May, 2014

Source:  Pakistan Observer;


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