Per capita availability of water has gradually dwindled from 5,260-cubic metres in 1951 to 1,100-cubic metres in the current years, and is estimated to reach 550-cubic metres in 2025. Population, which was 33.80 million in 1951, touched the 163 million figure in 2007, while it is expected to be 195.10 million in 2012 and 221 million in 2025. The increased population will need almost double the currently available water.
At the time of partition of India and Pakistan, there arose a dispute on the use of water resources since all rivers flowing in to Pakistan originated from India. The accord signed in 1960 at Karachi gave water of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan, whereas Ravi and Beas (Sutlej in Pakistan) were to be used by India. The treaty was signed by the hen Pakistani president Ayub Khan and Indian prime minister Nehru. Consequent to this distribution, the decision was taken to build to big water storages on the Indus (Tarbela Dam) and Jhelum (Mangla Dam) rivers. Thereafter, many small dams have also been added. In the 90s, Ghazi Barotha project came up without constructing a water reservoir for generating electricity.
Since the Indus Basin Treaty, India has been violating it in one way or the other. The Baglihar Dam being the latest incursion on the water being made available to Pakistan from the Chenab River. As per the Treaty, India is not allowed to build storage or diversion of the river water. However, under the garb of only installing hdro-electricity generation capability, India has planned construction in such a way that the site can store the river water and can thus be controlled to her advantage. Presently, the World Bank is monitoring the issue and no decision has yet been taken.
Pakistan is a country which contains various natural resources. Water is one of these recourses which can be utilized for the purpose of drinking, irrigation, and energy. The water of different rivers is flowing into Pakistan and dams have been constructed in different parts of the country. These are as follows:
• Tarbela Dam: Tarbela Dam is the largest dam on the Indus River in Pakistan, which is located about 50km North West of Islamabad. The dam was completed in 1976 and was designed to store water from the Indus River for the purpose of irrigation, flood control and for the generation of hydro-electric power. It is part of Indus Basin project which resulted from a water treaty signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan. The reservoir capacity of the dam is 3.69 km. It is about 143 meters high and 2743 meters wide. The useful efficiency of the dam and its reservoir is estimated to be around 50 years and the reservoir will be full of sediments within next 20 years. Tarbela Dam is a major source of Pakistan’s total hydro-electric capacity.
• Mangla Dam: Mangla Dam is constructed about 100 miles south-east of Islamabad. It is the 12th largest dam of the world. The construction of the dam is across the Jhelum River. The length of the dam is 10,300ft (3140 meters) and its height is 454ft (138 meters) with a reservoir of 97.7 sq miles. The project was primarily designed for irrigation, secondly, to generate electrical power and thirdly, for getting some benefits on flood control. The Government of Pakistan had agreed to pay royalties to the government of Azad Kashmir for the use of water and electricity generated by the dam. Over 280 villages and the towns of Mirpur and Dadyal were submerged and over 110,000 people were displaced from the area as a result of the dam construction. The project was completed in 1967 with the World Bank funding.
• Hub Dam: Hub Dam was constructed in 1981 on Hub River north of Karachi on the border between Balochistan and Sindh. It is a large water storage reservoir which supplies water for irrigation to Lasbela district of Balochistan and drinking water for the city of Karachi. The size of the Hub Dam reservoir is 32 sq.miles. It has a variety of fish species.
• Chashma Barrage: Chashma Barrage is located on the Indus River near village Chashma in Mianwali district. The project was built between 1967 and 1971. It is one of the many major engineering works that form a part of Indus basin treaty of 1960 between India and Pakistan. According to the project reports, 34 villages were displaced with the population of 22,400 people during the mid 60’s. The installed capacity of power station is 184MW. Chashma Barrage is the 3rd largest water reservoir of Pakistan.
• Guddu Barrage: Guddu Barrage is constructed near Sukkur in Pakistan. The project was completed in 1962. The maximum flood level height of this barrage is 26ft (8meters). Guddu Barrage supplies water for irrigation to 2.9million acres of agricultural lands in the Districts of Jacobabad, Larkana and Sukkur of Sindh and the Nasirabad District of Balouchistan. The cost of the project was 474.8 million rupees.
• Sukkur Barrage: Sukkur Barrage was constructed during the British Raj from 1923 to 1932 as the lioyd Barrage to help the alleviated famines caused by the lack of rains. Sukkur Barrage is built across the River Indus near the city of Sukkur. The barrage is useful irrigating more than 5million acres of land.
Pakistan is currently experiencing water stress and will soon face outright water scarcity. The overall water availability has decreased from 1,299 cubic meters per capita in 1996-97 to 1,101 cubic meters in 2004-05. In view of growing population, urbanization and increased industrialization, the situation is likely to get worse. If the current trends continue, it could go as lows as 550-cubic meters by 2025. Nevertheless, excessive mining of groundwater goes on. Despite a lowering water table, the annual growth rate of electric tubewells has been indicated to 6.7% and for diesel tubewells to about 7.4%. In addition, increasing pollution and saltwater intrusion threaten the country's water resources. About 36% of the groundwater is classified as highly saline.
In urban areas, most water is supplied from groundwater except for the cities of Karachi, Hyderabad and a part of Islamabad, where mainly surface water is used. In most rural areas, groundwater is used. In rural areas with saline groundwater, irrigation canals serve as the main source of domestic water.
A World Bank report recommends that Pakistan needs to set up new water reservoirs on an urgent basis, citing scarcity of water to get worse in the near future. Pakistan needs to invest almost US $1 billion per year in new large dams and related infrastructure over the next five years.
Water reservoirs are instruments of development as they contribute immensely to boost an agrarian economy and cheap hydel energy. In the case of Pakistan where the water crisis looms large and power shut downs are order of the day, construction of small and big water reservoirs deserves top most priority of the government. The importance of big reservoirs is as follows:
• INCREASE IN GDP: The new water reservoirs will push Pakistan’s economy forward. Every new dam will add four to five percent to Pakistan’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which means one dam will take Pakistan’s GDP from 110 billion to 115 billion dollars.
• WATER NEEDS FOR ELECTRICITY: Pakistan has 50,000 Mega Watt (MW) of hydropower potential of which it harnesses only 14 percent. Pakistan has 50,000 MW generation potential against its total requirement of 20,000 MW. Hence, Pakistan can meet its energy needs through increasing water resources. China and India produce 30 percent of their required power through water while developed countries harness 70 to 80 percent. Pakistan, instead of generating hydropower, produces expensive thermal power. New reservoirs will generate 10,000 MW of power, which will reduce the cost of electricity. Hydroelectricity and thermal power have 1.7 cost ratios. It costs one rupee to produce one unit of hydropower against Rs 7 of thermal electricity. Cultivable land of around 22 million acres remains uncultivated due to water shortage. . High-power tariff, a burden on consumers, can be reduced by utilising the available water resources at maximum. Pakistan’s electricity demand is increasing by seven percent annually. Therefore, the country direly needs new water reservoirs to overcome the looming water shortage problem.
• INDUSTRY: There are over half a million small and big industrial units in the country, out of which nearly 120,000 units are involved in textile, chemical, fertiliser, tanneries and other manufacturing activities. The estimated usage of water by all industries is 3.5 million acre feet (MAF) and it is expected to increase from 3.5 MAF at present to 4.8 MAF by 2025. New reservoirs are essential to save industrial sectors from the consequences of water shortage.
• DRINKING WATER: As many as 55 percent of the population has access to drinking water which cannot be termed as safe or potable. In Pakistan alone, 38.5 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 50.7 million people lack access to improved sanitation. The only solution to provide people with quality water is to increase the country’s water storage capacity.
Pakistan needs to set up new water reservoirs on an urgent basis to tackle the dearth of water in the near future. Pakistan only stores 30 days of river water, India stores 120 days, while the Colorado River in the US stores 900 days of river water. The country would overcome the water-shortage problem if the government would construct three new mega water reservoirs. Since 1974, when Tarbela Dam was built, to date, successive governments have failed to build any major water reservoir.
Presently, out of a total of 77 million acres of cultivable land in Pakistan, only 44 million acres is under cultivation due to sacristy of water, which is to the magnitude of 9 MAF. Due to silting of Mangla and Tarbela dams, water capacity is reducing at the rate of 3.6 MAF and if this trend continues, there will be a shortfall of 25 MAF of water by 2020. Although the government has undertaken a gigantic task of brick lining the small water courses from canals to farms, this would be able to save only 5 MAF of water, leaving a net shortfall of 15-20 MAF of water. Unless, 3-5 major dams are built by 2016, Pakistan will have been left with no water to irrigate its lands.
The government has proposed to build dams on the Indus, which include Skardu, Bhasha, Akhori and Kalabagh dams. Out of these Kalabagh Dam has been much controversial, especially by the NWFP and Sind provinces. Therefore, for the time being the government has decided to go ahead with the construction of Bhasha and Munda Dams, both located in the NWFP.
All mega dams planned on River Indus are equally important - however, Skardu Dam being far up in the north may prove to be expensive since the transmission losses from extended power lines will be more besides submerging of Skardu city. Skardu Dam is presently under study and hence most of the data is only approximate. The water available will be 27 MAF
• BHASHA DAM will have a live storage capacity of 7.30 MAF and installed power generation capacity of 4500 megawatts. It will store only 50 MAF glacial water from the northern mountains. Estimated cost of the dam is $ 6.5 billion. After several years of delay, the government finally decided to start the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam and allocated a reasonable amount of Rs 23 billion in the budget for the fiscal year 2009-10. the World Bank, however, has refused to finance the project worth $ 11.8 billion on the plea that its site is controversial between India and Pakistan. The Asian Development Bank, on the other hand, is ready to fund the mega project, and has linked the credit supply with a consensus resolution from Parliament in favour of the project to ensure that is not disputed.
• KALABAGH DAM is planned to be constructed below Akhori (Talagang) with a live storage capacity of 6.1 MAF and installed capacity of maximum 3,600 megawatts at an estimated cost of 6.1 billion $. Unlike Bhasha, it will also have 90 MAF water inlet from Soan, Kabul, Chitral and Haro rivers and thus will be able to store the monsoon water from these additional rivers.
• AKHORI DAM near Talagang will be able to store six MAF while water available will be 14 MAF with an installed capacity of 600 megawatts.
• MUNDA DAM is a prelude to the construction of Kalabagh Dam, basically designed to save Nowshera from flooding and to alleviate any misgivings the people of NWFP may have on the construction of Kalabagh Dam, which must be built to store all downstream rain/monsoon water which gets wasted away due to unavailability of any water storage reservoir downstream Kalabagh.
High population growth is causing ‘water stress.’ Pakistan is using almost all its water resources today and no more is available. If something goes drastically wrong with the salt/sediment/water balance of the Indus system, there is no other river system in the region to draw on.