By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR – Known as the home of longest River Indus (3180km) in Asia, Pakistan is a unique country with plenty of small and big rivers — gifted with natural sites for construction of more dams to address the longstanding water woes of the country.
The country has more than 24 big and small rivers including five in Punjab, four in Sindh, eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and seven in Balochistan had numerous suitable natural sites for construction of small, medium and big dams to fulfill the growing water needs of the people.
Pakistan is also the home of rivers: Chanab, Jhelum, Ravi, Sutlaj and Beas in Punjab, Kabul, Swat, Punjkora, Kunhar, Bara, Kurram, Haroo, Gomal, Chitral in KP, Nari, Bolan, Pishin, Lara, Mula, Hub, Zhob, Porali, Hangol, Rakshan, Dasht in Balochistan and four rivers in Sindh province.
The effective utilization of its water for agriculture, electricity generation and fish farming will make the country economically prosperous.
These rivers are endowed with a number of potential sites at Diamir Bhasa, Dasu Kohistan, Kalabagh on River Sindh, Mohamad and Kalam on River Swat, Shalman Khyber on River Kabul, Tangi on River Kurram in North Waziristan, Kaghan-Naran on River Kunhar for construction of water reservoirs.
Despite having enormous water potential, Pakistan is gradually moving towards water-scared country where most of living creatures including humans, animals, plants, wildlife, mammals and reptiles are facing the looming threats of water scarcity. The National Water Policy (NWP) 2018 has revealed that Pakistan was heading towards a situation of water shortage due to lack of water reservoirs, which may lead to food insecurity for all living creatures by 2025.
The policy disclosed that per capita surface water availability has significantly declined from 5,260 cubic meters per year in 1951 to around 1,000 cubic meters in 2016. This quantity is likely to further drop to 860 cubic meters by 2025, marking Pakistan’s transition from a water stressed country to a water scarce country.
The groundwater situation is expected to further drop in the country mostly in Punjab and Sindh where one million tube-wells are currently pumping about 55 million acres feet (MAF) of underground water for irrigation, which is 20pc more than that available from canals.
Talking to APP, former Ambassador of Pakistan Manzoorul Haq said, The policy’s findings are alarming. We need to swiftly shift our approach from construction of big dams to small dams that can prove harbinger of self-sufficiency in food and increasing exports of agro-based industries.”
He said water resources were inextricably linked with climate and the impending climate change scenario has posed serious implications for Pakistan’s water resources.
The changing and unpredictable precipitation patterns may have serious consequences, including flash floods in north and increasingly prolonged droughts in the south, he added.
Manzoorul Haq said that the glaciers retreat, more glacial lakes will form, increasing the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) that is already becoming increasingly common and hazardous in northern parts of the country.
The small dams are only remedy to store flood and rainy water mostly in arid areas like Karak, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat, DI Khan, DG Khan, Bhakkar, Bahawalpur, Multan, Tharparkar besides merged areas of erstwhile Fata to bring maximum dry land under cultivation and minimize impact of natural disasters, he said.
Economist and Water expert, Sumbul Riaz said that Pakistan receives around 142MAF water annually through western rivers of which 104MAF used for irrigation purposes.
Similarly, approximately 40MAF water is obtained from normal rainfall and 40pc through underground water per year, she added.
Sumbul Riaz said that currently Pakistan has a storage capacity of only 30 days for water, India has 90 days while as per international standard, and the safe period for water storage is 130 days.
She said that Pakistan was the only country with diversity in weather, rainfalls, landscape, forests, climate, and mountains with capacity to construct 1000 small dams.
Former Chairman Wapda Shamsul Mulk said small dams are a backbone of agriculture in developing countries like Pakistan and we can achieve self-sufficiency in food through establishing a network of small dams. He said 46,000 dams have been constructed worldwide whereas China has built 22,000 dams and India 4,500 dams.
Mulk said small dams were being preferred mostly in developing countries like SAARC for irrigation of agriculture and drinking water because it is cost & time efficient and do not require foreign investment compare to big dams, adding small dams can easily be constructed in two to three years while big dams mostly require 10 to 15 years.
Mujahid Saeed, Director General Small Dams Irrigation Department said feasibility studies and designs of 26 small dams having 166,282 cultivable command area and 555,103 acres feet storage capacity, has been either completed or practical work in progress in different districts of KP.