Kalabagh: vox populi

THE 99 percent of the vote for building Kalabagh Dam, in a referendum conducted by the Nawa-i-Waqt group, should come as no surprise to those who understand the simple logic behind the need for large water reservoirs in a country where the economy is based on agriculture; where times of scarcity alternate with devastating spells of floods; and a growing population keen to adopt modern health standards and ways of living. The referendum polled over 67,000 votes representing a broad spectrum of life in Pakistan. This also proves the point that the hue and cry against the project is no more than a manifestation of vested interests of insignificant coteries of small minded politicians. The general public, on the other hand, thinks in national, and not parochial, terms.
The recent floods have brought in sharp relief the urgency for having big reservoirs in Pakistan to store water not only during these extraordinary occurrences, but also every year at times of rains in the catchment areas and seasonal flows from the Himalayan glaciers, as they melt during the summer. Instead of losing this huge quantity of water to the sea, and suffering damage to life and property in the process, considerable amount could have been kept in reserve in the dam to be put to use when needed. It is true that the deluge the country is witnessing now is of biblical proportions, and it would not have been possible for Kalabagh to prevent all the suffering and damage the floods have caused. However, it is undeniable that the painful dislocation and damage would have been less in proportion to the quantity of water the dam would have absorbed. And had there also existed Munda Dam, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province would have been spared to quite an extent, and so would have been the areas downstream right till the sea. Governor Salman Taseer’s warning that if Kalabagh is not constructed now it would be suicidal is logical as well as timely because the pain the floods have caused continues to persist in a large swathe of the land. We must abjure the practice of politicising issues such as water – the lifeline of any people – and leave them to technical experts to decide. The views of Engineer Shamsul Mulk, former WAPDA Chairman, are highly pertinent since his own house is located in Nowshera, the town that some politicians of his province wrongly give out as being submerged after Kalabagh is built. There is no dearth of engineers, both here and outside the country, who blame Pakistan for neglecting this crucial project.
This paper also carries the call for the dam made by President of Associated Consulting Engineers Amjad Agha. One hopes that when the results of the referendum are sent up to Prime Minister Gilani by Chairman of the Nawa-i-Waqt Group Majid Nizami, the entire PPP leadership, including President Zardari, would come out in favour of the dam and bring round the dissenters – Nation