A shocking report by Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) that says Pakistan might run out of the water by 2025, has alarmed the nation. The rising levels of temperature in summers, climate change, lesser rainfall and drought-like conditions have made citizens call out the authorities for working on projects like Kalabagh dam, Katzarah dam and speeding up the work at Bhasha dam.
The water issue remained a center of discussion among the social media brigade who trended the hashtags like #savewater and #watercrisisinPakistan to make the citizens aware of the perilous situation of water reservoirs in the country. Many users came up with stats that dams in Pakistan are insufficient and they can store water only up to 30 days, as compared to India’s ability to save water for more than 150 days or so. Hence they made a case for the need of dams that can not only store the rainwater that goes otherwise wasted and falls into sea unutilized, but that can also produce thousands of megawatts of energy. Many users like German ambassador Martin Kobler gave tips to fight water crisis in Pakistan by saving water in daily life.
But what remained a topic of heated debate was the issue of Kalabagh dam, a project that may prove a mighty reservoir of water in Pakistan, but at the same times, it may also submerge a considerable area of KPK, Punjab and even Sindh. So, the people who are not much aware of the feasibility conditions are pressing the need of making Kalabagh dam, given the threats of water scarcity and drought.
In fact, the hype has been created on social media which is potentially provoking the controversy on the issue as multilevel stakeholders are involved in the Kalabagh dam. While mainstream press is talking about Kalabagh dam, its feasibility and all of its negative and positive impacts on the nation in general and provinces in particular, there are those who are demanding the resuming of work on Katzarah dam, which is said to be the biggest dam not only in Pakistan but also in the world, if constructed.
But the question is whether Katzarah will be a really biggest dam in the world? Or it is not as controversial as Kalabagh Dam? And, whether it has potential to bail out Pakistan from its water and power crisis.
Katzarah Dam- A Potentially Biggest Dam in the World
The site for Katzarah dam was identified in 1960. The location of this three gorge dam site is considered to be the narrowest for the multipurpose dam in Pakistan. The available online data from multiple websites shows that Katzarah dam can store 35 MAF (Million Acre Feet) of water while producing 15000 megawatts of energy. The dam which is located on the confluence of Shyok river, Shigar river, and Indus river will not only store water but also improve the irrigation system in Punjab, KPK, and Sindh. Further Katzarah also has a natural dam site which makes the construction less challenging.
Obstacles In the Way of Katzarah Dam
Question is if Katzarah dam is such a beneficial project, then why the authorities are turning a blind eye towards it.
Let’s have a look at few facts.
Katzarah is located 22 km south of the Skardu. Even though the site was identified in the 1960s and it also received the attention of the authorities, no work was done on the project probably because the road to Skardu remained closed for 6-7 months of the year and no means of transportation could go there except jeeps and animals.
According to a 2011 letter that WAPDA wrote to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani narrated that Wapda had done the pre-feasibility level studies on the project in 2007 under its vision 2025 and confirmed that dam had a potential to impound 27 Maf water from Indus river. However, it noted that even an 8 MAF reservoir was enough to submerge Skardu valley, reported Dawn.
Well, there are several negative impacts of Katzarah dam; it is not only a threat to Skardu valley and Skardu airport, but it may also wipe off the historic Balti civilization from the land. Further, some forum discussions on the internet also point out that construction of the dam in Skardu which is near to Siachin might also interfere with the military’s mobility in the region. Hence, it might not be strategic from the defense point of view.
If Not Katzarah Dam, then What?
The significant dam projects like Kalabagh and Karzarah are not free from controversy. They might lessen or even diminish the water and power crisis in Pakistan, but they can also pave way for the ethnic riots and inter-provincial clashes. In fact, these water reservoirs can’t satisfy the concerns of all the stakeholders. In such circumstances, Pakistan should work on only those water and power related projects that don’t harm any entity in a long or short run. The issue is that, social media users who blindly follow the trends and don’t care to dig into the facts, fall a trap to the illusion of possessing something ‘biggest in the world’. As the case is with Katzarah dam- they don’t bother to see the conflict of interest and potential threats that these projects bring to the political instability.
Therefore, a better solution to Pakistan’s water and power crisis can be to work on the sustainable and small projects that don’t infringe the rights of any group in any way, also offer the country enough water reservoirs that can prevent floods and stop the droughts.