Zahid Ahmed Thebo
Development nations have a different outlook towards life. They chose sustainable and feasible development, free from prejudice and controversy. Since it is being said at every platform and media forum that the next world war might erupt on water, because the world is running out of it, so is Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of those states, badly targeted by climate change and its negative effects, like heat waves and deadly smog, environmental pollution, flooding, and IDPs crisis. But particularly, our water shortage sufferings are exaggerated by mismanagement of water reservoirs. Plus choosing conflict-oriented short sight and non-sustainable mega-dams. There is much fuss on dams at the national level nowadays. We have mistakenly taken “Man dies out of water “as “We shall die out of dam” Both of these, are two different things and should not be amalgamated. Starting controversial dams issue again, in this critical period where democracy and institutions are on a bumpy ride, is unwise and childish. Because they are harming already weaken provincial harmony. Present-era Mega Dams have become outdated, irrelevant when they are compared with other feasible alternatives like” aquifer “.
Australia has the world’s biggest aquifer, so the U.S has an aquifer in Texas. They and many others have taken such profitable steps because They might be aware of ” BIG DAM LOBBY’s covert plans.
“Patrick Mc Cully director of international rivers network U.K said
There has never been a fair playing field when dams have been
Compare with their alternatives. Corruption and the power of
the big dam lobby have regularly underestimated their cost and
exaggerated their benefits.
Mega Dams are not only risky but have shackled economies. Oxford university researched 65 different states and considered their 245 dams built from 1934 to 2007, was found that the average cost over-run was 96%.
Neelum Jhelum hydel project’s cost overrun has already reached 50 % and it has cost taxpayers more than 1000 per watt of power supply capacity without taking into account debt service interest.
By mega controversial dam building not only the billions that are intended to harm our economy but other aspects like a destroyed ecosystem, eroding river delta, drowned scenic river delta and valley, wreck nutrients replenishing sedimentation, flood plains, etc.
Above all social-political unrest, hate among provinces is likely to erupt. These are unavoidable economic externalities. So, why does one take a risk on building a mega-dam project which has a minimum useful life, high cost on maintenance, and a few benefits? Tarbela dam has already lost 36 % of its storage capacity within 4 decades. Mangla lived up to expectations 35 years after its construction and now government probably borrows money for maintenance, raising walls to cope with coming challenges.
There is a misconception that dams protect from flooding, contrary to this 1992’s WAPDA’s report categorically denied that there is no reservoir for flood control. It is only incidental. Oops!! Here another bubble broke. Further Mangla dam not only failed to handle but exacerbated the damage and sufferings of the masses.
It is widely believed that only dams can give us cheap electricity. Contrary to this prevailing thought, solar installations are cheaper than Neelum Jehlum, moreover, Pakistan lies in the zones with ideal solar potential. So, mega-dams are not the do-or-die situation.
The aquifer is the ideal and sustainable plan to reserve water. In this way, we can save billions which we usually waste in the name of SCAPR (salinity control and reclamation project).
Rachna, Bari, and Thall offer excellent aquifers than Kalabagh, Mangla and Marbella combined. Then why to hell-bent upon mega dams? Neither we have the financial muscle nor technical expertise to undertake such a task. Refilling aquifers might be expensive but rest assured it would be cheaper than building a large dam.
Little Maths and cost-benefit analysis can make things clear. Dam building costs $10 billion with an estimated capacity of 5 GW and this power will ent3er the grid only after completion of the dam, which might take 15 years. On another side, solar power costs 90 cents to produce one watt. Given $10billion we can produce 10 GW and production can start from the first few months of the project. Progressively reaching in 10 GW in 2 years. So, what is more, profitable and sustainable? $ 10 billion for 10 GW in 2 years or $ 10 billion for 5 GW after 15 years?
Mega dams shackle economies, and such projects can be manipulated easily by ruling governments to advertise their worth in election campaigns. Flyovers, buses projects, mega-dams are the type of projects that can be seen and appreciated easily as a sign of development. But actually, such mega projects like Dams provide mega corruption opportunities and hide their inefficiencies behind their big walls.
As soon as, the project starts delivering the honest country is obliged to meet loan repayment. Citizens pay a high price than actual, taxes, etc.
And by that time the dam has already lived up to its useful life. Then, the pretty big dam mafia who projected the dam’s rosy picture warns us against coming danger and is advised to go for another megaproject. In this way, they can rip our pockets again.
Donor organizations only invest in poor countries, they create jobs for their people, bring host countries on their knees to comply with their draconian terms. They merely have a simple job of devastating economies, ripping our pockets and getting their money back with interest.
Whereas all the existing and proposed dams can save up to 50 MAF, our natural groundwater storage is 3,000 MAF, and here we can save more water.
The developed countries are choosing water-sensitive urban designs in urban areas, whereas river riparian zone management is in rural areas. They adopt techniques based on adaptation and risk management which help simultaneously absorb flood and recharge aquifers.
If such sagacious planning would have been done on time, then generally Pakistan and specifically in Sindh could have been saved from previous flooding damages, neither the IDP crisis in Sindh would not have been so severe nor the water crisis. So, it has been proven that mega controversial dams are not the only option to embark upon. Pakistan must get its priorities right using vision, sustainability, feasibility, and foresight. While considering the successful examples of aquifer and management, producing electricity through cheap alternatives of solar potential. And save the economy from foreign debt, considering and following riparian zone management, prioritizing aquifers over mega-dams without any prejudice and covert political motives.