Dams vital for food security
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
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
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
The 1991 water accord was signed amongst the four provinces
on March 16, 1991 and was approved by the CCI on March 21,
differences emerged in 1994 when there was an exceptional
decline in the rainfall, which created serious water
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
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.
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
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
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.