By Zaresh Khan
Dams are an instrument of development, yet every dam small or large carries inherent risks of failure. In the case of a larger dam it could be catastrophic for life and property down the valley. Large dams are therefore planned and designed with utmost care to preclude as far as possible any risk of a failure. Keeping in view the risk factor and the growing population of Pakistan in view (estimated at 170 million at the start of 2009), the proposal of Bhasha dam was regulated on 17 January 2006. Inhabitants of the area welcomed the government proposal being truly patriotic.
The project of Bhasha Dam is located on Indus River, about 315 km upstream of Tarbela Dam, 165 km downstream of the Northern Area capital Gilgit and 40 km downstream of Chilas. The proposed dam would have a maximum height of 270 m, and impound a reservoir of about 7,500,000 acre feet (9.25×109 m3), with live storage of more than 6,400,000 acre feet (7.89×109 m3). Mean annual discharge of Indus River at the site is 50,000,000 acre feet (6.2×1010 m3). Thus the dam will impound 15% of the annual river flow. The dam project would cover an area of 110 km2 and extend 100 km upstream of the dam site up to Raikot Bridge on Karakoram Highway (KKH). The planned 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam on the Indus in Pakistan is, at US$12.6 billion, one of the largest and most costly planned dams in the world.
The present demand of electricity in country is above 17,000 MW, which is estimated to cross 22,000 MW by the year 2010. A large-scale injection of power thus becomes inevitable. The three most important water reservoirs of Pakistan namely, the Mangla, Tarbela and Chashma have already lost approximately 5000,000 acre feet of their storage capacity due to sedimentation. And it is estimated that in the coming few years this loss will be increased to 6000, 000 acre feet. Thus when the electricity demand is already not being fulfilled in the country due to one or the other reason and the existing water reserves are also not working on their full capacity, the construction of a new hydro electric power plan becomes unavoidable. Moreover according to the constitution of Pakistan, the province where the electricity is being generated will get the royalty of the project. In this way NWFP will get the royalties of the world's most expensive dam project which will in the long run help in many development programs in the province and will also have the effect of bridging the differences between the provinces. By the completion of this project, the dependence of thermal power will be greatly reduced which will in turn save foreign exchange of the country. The population of Pakistan will greatly benefit from this project as it will provide the poor population of the province with employment oppertunities and will provide electricity on cheaper rates. Moreover Pakistan on the whole will progress as the industry will prosper when the supply of electricity will be smooth and continous.
However, some anti state elements and foreign forces are opposed to the progress of Pakistan. And to bring their dreams to reality, they are leaving no stone unturned to create discontent among the general public and provoke them to oppose the development work planned in Pakistan. By politicizing and scandalizing the legitimacy and transparency of the Bhasha dam, they are making every effort to make it controversial to achieve the many objectives such as make the international funding for the project problematic. Last but not the least the adversaries wish to draw political mileage by projecting Northern areas as part of Jammu and Kashmir and a disputed territory where Pakistan has no legitimate right to build a dam. Thus by highlighting the so called woes and resentment of local population, win the sympathies of the people of northern areas.
There is a very famous saying, Why bomb military installations, bridges, ports, fuel depots incurring humongous monetary costs and retaliation, when ends can be achieved by merely turning off the tap? Water has always been a social weapon of control and exploitation. Jawaharlal Nehru called dams the temples of modern India. Today's India sees these temples as tools of war. Let's not forget our identity and culture as a Pakistani and let's not be a puppet in the hands of foreign antagonists. The looming water crisis, if unattended, will prove fatal for Pakistan. India, like a delinquent child, has taken up the opening and closing of faucet on Chenab. This has resulted in dozens of villages alongside Head Sulemanki and many more in Kasur, Bahawalnagar, Vehari and other areas being inundated with Indian floodwater when excess water is released. If today we fail to address our water requirements unanimously, the adversaries of Pakistan will benefit from the situation and we as a nation will be left between the devil and the deep sea.
Everything on the face of this earth has some positive and negative points but it depends on how we utilize the facility in our own interest. Same is the case with Bhasha dam. The project will be the mark of the prosperity, will complete the water requirements of Pakistan on one hand while on the other hand it will also serve the purpose of introducing development work in the province as new roads and communication networks will be designed to support the project. Thus in the long run, generally the Islamic republic of Pakistan and particularly the province of NWFP will advance. kashmirwatch.com