Dam if you donate, damned if you don’t! | Pakistan Today

Dam if you donate, damned if you don’t!

  • CJP calls for public donations to ‘immediately construct’ Bhasha, Mohmand dams, as ministry officials say 90m acre-feet of water is being wasted annually
  • SC forms committee under WAPDA to monitor progress of construction, directs opening of account with SC registrar to collect donations from general public

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered the immediate construction of Bhasha and Mohmand dams to address the issue of water scarcity in the country after ministry officials told the court that constructing dams is not a priority of the government.

To be built in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit-Baltistan falling in Kohistan and Bhasha areas, the Diamir-Bhasha Dam will have the capacity to store 6.4 MAF of water and create 4,500MW electricity, while the Mohmand Dam will be built on Swat river in Manda area and will have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and create 800MW electricity.

Hearing the case related to scarcity of water and construction of new dams, the CJP observed that water resources are pertinent not only for human lives but for the country’s stability, adding that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) did not express any reservation against Bhasha and Mohmand Dam.

During the hearing of the case, Justice Nisar remarked, “How much water are we wasting?”

The Ministry of Power and Water responded that in one year, 90 million acre-feet of water is wasted, adding that one million acre-feet of water cost $500 million.

The CJP responded that after Tarbela, a new dam should have been built every 10 years.

‘APPEAL FOR DONATIONS’:

The CJP appealed to the general public, including Pakistanis residing abroad, to donate generously for the cause.

The apex court formed a committee under the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to monitor the progress of construction and directed that an account be opened with the SC registrar in which all donations will be collected. It also said that all those donating for the cause will not be asked of their sources of income.

Moreover, Chief Justice Nisar initiated the donation process by donating Rs1 million himself for the cause during the hearing of the case pertaining to the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

“It was said that ‘even the Supreme Court’s father’ cannot construct dams,” the CJP noted, reminding the naysayers that the constitution had given the court the power to make it happen.

Justice Nisar hoped that “the passion that was seen during 1965 war [with India] would be seen again for the construction of dams”.

The four-member special bench, comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar, ordered the WAPDA chairman-led committee to present a report after completing the formalities within three weeks.

Earlier, court aide Mujeeb Pirzada said that only the benefits of Kalabagh dam were being described ignoring the fact that there were some serious demerits to its construction. Pirzada explained that the construction of the dam at one place would mean that the supply of water to other areas would be affected. He also claimed that the construction of Kalabagh dam would adversely impact sugarcane and rice production.

“But dams are the nation’s need and we need to make them,” the CJP responded at Pirzada’s concerns about livelihoods of farmers being affected because of the dam.

Meanwhile, the secretary finance urged the court to issue an order to increase the price of water for agriculture to Rs1,500 per acre which, he said, would bring annual revenues of Rs70 billion which could be used to construct a dam in 10 years.

The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) briefed the court that the country had a storage capacity of 13.7 million acre feet (MAF) of the 138 MAF of water flowing into the country. The briefing said that the construction of two more dams will generate a capacity to store additional 7 MAF of water.

It noted that the country’s needs stand at 25 MAF of water and a new dam would be required every ten years after the construction of two new dams.

“We should have confidence in ourselves,” the CJP said, adding: “It is possible that we get more money than the required amount.” Justice Nisar also disclosed that Rs900bn “are going to arrive soon” but said that matter should be kept secret for now.

During his briefing, former WAPDA chairman Shamsul Mulk said that while 46,000 dams had been constructed in the past century across the globe, Pakistan had only constructed three

The chief justice asked him whether Kalabagh was inevitable at which Mulk responded that Kalabagh Dam was the need of the hour for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Justice Nisar then said that because of it being controversial, “we should look at the other two dams” at which Mulk said that it would be good if Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams are constructed.

“We are thankful that you have consented to the construction of the other two dams,” he told the former Wapda chairman, adding that his expertise would be required in future.

Towards the end of the hearing, Attorney General Khalid Jawed said that the debate around the dams would continue unless the court issues an order for their construction. He added that the bureaucracy needs to brought into action and that the institutions would have to act if the court issues an order.

The court then ordered to immediately begin construction of the two dams.

WATER SCARCITY IN PAKISTAN:

The issue of water scarcity in the country has worried many especially after a report was published highlighting the dire situation of water in Pakistan. The report had said that Pakistan would run out of water by 2025.

The SC took up the case regarding the scarcity of water in the country and ordered the construction of dams to end the crises.

Earlier, CJP Nisar had said that a consensus has been reached over the immediate construction of two dams that would be built from the money recovered from the defaulting companies.

Justice Nisar made this announcement while a hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the 222 companies and individuals that had their loans, amounting to Rs54 billion, waived off fraudulently. The amount recovered would be used for the construction of these two dams after the companies agreed to pay 75 per cent amount as per a formula suggested by a Supreme Court judge.

Previously, the CJP also proposed the construction of Kalabagh Dam with the consensus of all the provinces.



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