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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: nrqazi
Full Name: Naeem Qazi
User since: 25/Nov/2007
No Of voices: 390
 
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   WATER -  THE LOOMING   CATASTROPHE

        In another 6 to 7 years, Pakistan will become  a water scarce area in the winters.   A strange statement given the fact that we have the one of the largest, integrated, gravity flow irrigation systems in the world, supported by two major Dams.   Water scarce area, for folks not having much to do with agriculture, is an area which is dependent on rains for irrigating crops.

      The reason for this strange situation will be the lack of capacity to store the snow melt and monsoon flows between the months of June and Stember in the Tarbela dam as it will have lost 43 % of its storage due to silting by the next 7 years.
      The question arising in the minds of the well informed and concerned friends would be' what about the Basha Dam ?' The Basha Dam is at best in advanced planning stages with no funds committed for its construction as yet and will take atleast 12 to 15 years to complete, given it's distance from the supply centers. The site is 300 kms from islamabad along a communication link which is severely prone to blockages when ever it rains.
       The second question that must be perturbing well informed minds would be 'what about the additional capacity created by Raised Mangla  ?'  Despite the Mangla raising,  there will not be  sufficient water to fill up the enhanced storage as Mangla lies in a monsoon shadow zone. A 100 year record maintained by IRSA, WAPDA and the Irrigation Dept of Punjab shows the average collection over the years has been ........ MAF as compared to the new capacity of ........MAF that has been created with the raising f Mangla Dam.

         When the two dams were completed in 1976, the total storage created was .......    MAF, which was sufficient to provide water for irrigation in the command areas of the four provinces, from one monsoon to the next.  The farmers of Pakistan were very comfortable and Pakistan saw an increase in agricultural productivity by about ...... %.

        The storage capacity has decreased substantially in the last 36 years ie by about  36 %. As a result irrigation supplies in the dams are depleted by end Feburary instead of end July. The weather plays its tricks too. The past winter and spring saw exta ordinary  low tempratures and consequently very little snow melt , which led to a 40  % shortage during spring and early summer,  resulting in hue and cry by the farmers and the provinces.

          The implications are extremely serious for food security and the economy of Pakistan. Wheat, the main staple for the majority of the population, is a very nutrious food. The poorer class eats mostly wheat bread with lassi, achar, chatni, tea or onions etc etc and remains healthy and robust.

         Our average production of 22 million tons,  is sufficient to feed the 200 million people of Pakistan and export a substantial amount to Afghanistan as well. But this level of production is based on irrigation water being available as wheat requires 3 to 4 waterings between November and the first 15 days of March.

        Therefore when I said a water catastrophe is looming, this may perhaps have been an understatement. In the last two years irrigation water in the two dams finished by the end of February !  The last watering in March is extremely important as it makes the wheat grain fat and healthy. Too much heat or less water can shrivel the grain and the national production can dip to 20 million tons. We did not dip as timely rain and moisture left over from the floods helped maintain the 23 million ton production level. But who can predict how nature will behave next year!

         As the Tarbela silts up progressively over the next 5 to 7 years and Mangla does not provide more than ..... MAF on the average, water availability for the wheat crop  will be available only upto  Feburary. As a result the crucial March watering will not be available and production will drop to, this is a guesstimate, anywhere between 15 to 20 tons. The higher figure supposes that there have been healthy winter rains while the lower figure supposes that there have been poor winter rains.

         Pakistan's population is increasing rapidly and so is the global population. Food needs will be increasing substantially and shortages due to droughts effect world prices. Pakistan, which is today exporting wheat, may very well be importing expensive wheat. We spend heavily on importing oil and gas and we will be spending almost the same amount on wheat imports. What a tragedy for a country which has the water resources, has excellent soil, has a lot of sun light and has a hard working work force, to run short of its staple diet.

        The alarm which needs to be sounded and heard by the Establishment is that the 70 % population of Pakistan living in the rural areas, though not rich, is satisfied and living a modest standard of life. Every village has a landed class and a landless class. The landed class uses the landless labour for planting, weeding and harvesting. Labour is quite expensive and payment is generally taken in kind. The landless therefore end up with a years supply of food grains and along with milk, eggs and local vegetables manage a healthy diet.

      15.            Now imagine a scenario, 7 years hence, when the dams have depleted in mid february, where the winter rains have failed and the farmers dependence is only on ground water. This may come as a surprise to many that while there is abundant sweet water in the mountainous areas, Punjab's 60 % ground water is saline, while Sindh's 70 % is also saline. Sweet water exists only along the rivers. There are two caveats to this also. The rivers Indus, Jehlum and Chenab are living rivers while the Ravi, Sutleg and Bias are dead rivers. Therefore sweet water will be available around the living rivers but there has been such heavy pumping around the dead rivers that sweet water has seriously depleted and a time may come when the sweet water will vanish

         The scenario that I can foresee  by Province,  shall be :-

          A. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).   Pakhtunkhwa has community maintained  irrigation systems in Malakand Division which draw water from the Swat River. Since river Swat is a perennial  River, KP 's  Malakand Division shall not be effected . However parts of Southern KP ie DI Khan which is fed by the CRBC,  shall be effected by the Tarbela siltation and may have no water in the winter months, seriously effecting the winter crops which are largely wheat and sugar cane. Southern  KP, less the area served by CRBC, is generally barrani and will continue practicing traditional agriculture. Hazara is rolling terrain in the south and mountainous in the north. People have developed local irrigation systems and will continue practicing traditional agriculture.

          B.   Baluchistan, has been a  rain fed water scarce  area, where people have led nomadic lives and depended upon livestock. The Kachi Canal project, due for completion to irrigate 6 lac acres of Bugti land, will be effected by the winter shortage as will be the Pat Feeder area.

           C. Punjab, the most fertile and productive province, with 24 million acres of excellent alluvial land, produces the most agriculture products, catering to the needs not only of its own people but also meets the deficits of KP, GB, AJK, at times Sindh's shortages and Afghanistan's needs. Lack of irrigation supplies, specially in winter after about 5 to 7 years, will sorely effect Punjab's productivity, and Pakistan's productivity may drop to anything between 15 to 20  million tons.


           D. As concerns Sindh which has a cultivable area of 15 million acres, only the lands lying along the river Indus have sweet water. As you get further away from the Indus, the ground water becomes saline and cannot be used for agriculture. Therefore non availability of dam storages in winter will severely effect Sindh's agriculture, which is centered on cotton, fruits and vegetables . Wheat production , traditionally has been around 4 million tons which will probably halve and will not be sufficient for Sindh's needs.

       E.  From the paras above it can be concluded that if ........ MAF storage is not available at the end of the summer monsoon,  Pakistan will face water scarcity in winter, at a time when the staple crop wheat is maturing,  leading to severe shortages and forcing the Govt to import wheat, spending precious foreign exchange on a product which can be comfortably produced in the country.

  Implications.

           A.  70 % of our population lives in the rural areas. Though poor by international standards, no one goes hungry, are employed intensively in agriculture and take home enough to eat quite well and are healthy. The reason is that agriculture is not fully mechanized and much of the work, such as planting, weeding and harvesting is still done by hand, therefore local labour is in great demand.Compensation is generally in kind and every family has enough food to carry it through the year. Only when we have natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes have we witnessed the rural folk looking for handouts. Thus the Government faces no major social or political issues from the rural areas which is the case in urban slums.

          B. The scenario painted above, which is looming in our face, ie decreasing capacities of large storages can create very serious problems for the Government. Where the rural household was able to access food by providing  labour, in the future scenario the household will have to spend money to buy their food. What is happening is that we are, economically,  converting our rural society into an urban society which has to buy its food without the urban opportunities of paid jobs.  The advantage to the urban household is access to paying jobs ie they are living in a cash available environment as against the rural society where the general rule is payment in kind. With water shortage for half the year,  the rural household will slip into poverty and hunger. Protests, frustrations and anger will start manifesting itself amongst 170 million rural people instead of the 20 million urban people. The problems would be overpowering for any Government forcing us into the IMF and Donor lap who will than dictate and interfere in the sovereign policies of the Govt.

18. The Solution.

      The solution is very simple and then also complex. At the simple level, one is reminded of President Clinton's famous remark at his first election. Applied in our case it would be , '   
          

 MAKE A NEW STORAGE,  WITHIN 5 to7 YEARS,  STUPID '.

 

       Now the complex part, '

        

  WHICH SITE SHOULD BE DEVELOPED FIRST

       The need is for a large storage and not many small ones as the small dams cannot store 6 MAF which is required. The large sites possible for storages identified by the Indus Basin Consultants were Skardu, Basha, Tarbela, Mangla, Raised Mangla, Akhori and Kalabagh. While Tarbela, Mangla and Raised Mangla have been utilized we are left with Skardu, Basha, Akhori and Kalabagh.
      Keeping the prime objective of time in view ie we want a storage within 5 to 7 years otherwise we face social and economic disaster.
       Skardu and Basha are too far away, on a very uncertain line of communication, which is prone to frequent blockades and an earthquake prone area which has seen at least two major earthquakes in recent past.
      Kalabagh, the most ready site and the best site since it won't silt up and will be a perpetual storage has become such an emotional issue that even raising the topic will create a furore in Sindh and KP. Even the Martial Law Governments did not risk starting Kalabagh fearing public reaction from the populace of these provinces. Possibly, when people are more educated and aware and not driven by emotions, Kalabagh will be made. Meanwhile the site is there and will not disappear.
       The last site is Akhori, which is sited just below Hasanabdal in Attock District. A feasibility has been conducted by WAPDA and has been found feasible. It's features are that it will store the overflow of Tarbela Dam through a  20 km canal off taking from the Ghazi Bharotha Barrage. An earth filled dam will be constructed on the Akhori Nullh, which drains the area and falls into the Indus River. It's capacity will be about 6 MAF and will generate about 2500 MWFs of electricity also. No canal will off take from this Dam. Its primary role is that of a supporting dam to Tarbela. The Tarbela overflow will carry comparatively less silt therefore prolonging the life if this dam. Since it lies near Wah where there are 3 cement factories and abundant limestone, traveling time for transportation shall be a few hours compared to 3 days travel to Basha. There is no record of any major earthquake in the area. Tarbela has actually tested the terrain.
        The greatest advantages of Akhori site are
      &nbs; (a) Easy access.
       (b) will be an earth filled dam, a technology well known to our       &n; engineers.
     &n; . (c) can be constructed within 5 to 7 years.
        (d) no canal will off take from the site and thus create no controversies, the terrain being hilly and broken.
     &; (e) the water for storage will be the over flow of Indus from Tarbela. The present water distribution formulae between the Prvinces will not be disturbed.
  ( f) the site will also generate 2500 MWs of electricity.

Conclusion

           I would , in the end like to emphasize that we do not have the luxury of time. In fact we are behind time when we compare our population growth, per capita increase in incomes compared to the growth of population. Estimates show that our population will plateau by the year 2040 by which time our population will have grown to 350 million people.! Wheat requirement then will be 45 million tons ! Scientifically the jump could take place with better seed, on time and the right addition of fertilizer but without water all these efforts would be useless. There is no other option available to us other than constructing Akhori dam within 5 to 7 years and much later on, when our society has been educated and has matured, Kalabagh Dam.

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