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water crises


									The most dreaded water scarcity event has at last hit Pakistan. This is nothing
unexpected. The manner in which we have been used to handle our resources and
national affairs, this catastrophic occurrence was bound to take us over. Nature’s
endowment of water blessings upon Pakistan has always been envied by the world at
large. At the time of independence 5000 cu/m of water was available for each
Pakistani, which has now reduced to 1000 cu/m because of uncontrolled population

Water is one resource that can not be generated it can only be preserved. Farsighted
nations try to conserve each every drop of water available to them because they are
aware of the fact that if this commodity is not prudently preserved and used, the
human survival itself would be jeopardized and future wars would be fought for its
possession and control. The only manner to conserve this resource known to man so
far is to construct dams. Dams have been built for atleast 5000 years and, their
functions have evolved with the developing needs of the society. Most likely, the
earliest dams were built to store water for domestic and agriculture water supply.
With the onset of industrial era, hydropower became a major reason to built dams.
Presently dams are built to serve many other functions, such as, flood control,
navigation, and recreation. According to an estimate the present volume of all storage
reservoirs with gross capacity of 5 cu/km and above amounts to some 4900 cu/km.
Out of this about 975 cu/km lie in North America while about 1770 cu/km are in Asia
with majority in China. China has some 83000 reservoirs built for various purposes,
of which 330 are major in size. While in Pakistan we have two major and about a
.dozen smaller reservoirs

It has been said that all reservoirs are doomed to die. This is due to loss of their
storage capacity because of sedimentation. Assuming a hundred year average life of
reservoirs (Lake Mead, USA-350 years + Tarbela, Pakistan-40 years), the world is
losing about 41 cu/km of storage capacity per year. Although we can not halt their
termination yet, with our knowledge and effort we can delay this process and elongate
their life. So far few methods are available for prolonging the storage and life of
reservoirs. Among these the most frugal and resource preservation method is
construction of series of dams on the river so as to trap the sediment inflows in the
upstream reservoirs and store comparatively sediment free water in the lower
reservoirs. It was estimated that Kalabagh reservoir life with Tarbela upstream and a
conjunctive operation could be extended to 100+ years. The other operational
methods include sediment sluicing alongwith water flows through the dam outlets and
flushing of accumulated sediment through reservoir regulation methods; though these
method involve trade off between stored water and reservoir capacity because stored
water shall have to be passed through the dam unobstructed. Another method
available is desiltation through dredging. This method is so expensive that
construction of a new storage would cost about one twentieth of the cost of a similar

Let us now recapitulate and make an assessment of ourselves to find out how and why
we have suddenly become a water scarcity country from a water affluent country.
Soon after the creation of Pakistan the country was faced with a number of serious
problems including that of electricity and water shortage. The control of three out of
five Punjab rivers had gone to India, which stopped the water supply to our canals
feeding the eastern districts of theUnited Punjab and the Bhawalpur State.The
unilateral action of the Indian Government ruined our cultivated land which was soon
rendered dry and started becoming salinated. This affected the economy of the newly
created country very badly and the danger of famine thus loomed over the nation.
Pakistan therefore, had to mobilize her own resources. The search for alternate
arrangements to sustain our mainly agrarian economy started. The construction of
small dams on our rivers like Warsak on Kabul and Rohtas on Jhelum were taken up
with the aid of Commonwealth countries. In addition, for gross utilization of the
available water resources in the country, the Govt. of Pakistan set up an organization
under the title “Dams Investigation Circle”(DIC) which was entrusted with the task of
carrying out comprehensive survey for collecting the data and preparing the projects
which may help in resolving the problems of water and energy shortage. By the end of
May 1996, the DIC prepared a number of projects, which included Dams at Kalabagh
.on Indus River and Rohtas (later called Mangla) on Jhelum river

Investigations for construction of a huge multipurpose dam on Indus River at
Kalabagh were started in 1953 and its feasibility was submitted to the Govt. after
getting approved by a group of expert foreign Consultants. The Govt. approved this in
1959, the year WAPDA came in to being. In 1960 a treaty between Pakistan and India
was signed with World Bank mediation widely known as the “Indus Basin Treaty”.
According to this treaty, control of waters of Ravi, Bias and Sutlej was given to India
with the condition that the Indian Govt. will compensate for the loss of Pakistan and
fully participate in the construction of the replacement works with the help of the
World Bank and the other aid giving agencies. The replacement works included two
large dams one on the Indus and the other on Jhelum, five barrages and eight link
canals and a siphon for carrying the waters of Chenab River across the Sutlej River.
The then Chief Martial Law Administrator and President Ayub Khan on behalf of the
Pakistan Govt. and the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jwaharlal Nehru on behalf of
India signed the treaty; Eugene Blake signed the treaty on behalf of the World Bank.
For the two large multipurpose dams on Indus and Jehlum Pakistan proposed sites at
Kalabagh and Rohtas (later called Mangla). Kalabagh site choice for Pakistan was
obvious since lot of investigation had been carried out at this site and a feasibility
report duly prepared and approved by the GOP after check and scrutiny by the foreign
.experts and consultants

In the meanwhile a group of shortsighted bureaucrats gathered around Ayub Khan and
convinced him to switch over the construction site on Indus River from Kalabagh to
Tarbela some 100 miles upstream. Unfortunately, Ayub Khan was neither a political
leader nor had the wisdom to understand the implications of the counsel given to him.
In fact it was some sort of intrigue weaved very carefully around Ayub Khan by some
petty minded bureaucrats who had their own axe to grind rather than serve the
national interest. On Ayub Khan’s insistence the design of dam at Tarbela site was
prepared in great hurry, which was not based on detailed site investigations and thus
had many inherent defects. The team of experts warned the GOP that this project
would be a complete failure and the whole investment on this scheme will go down
the drain. Incidentally no attention was paid to this warning. Ayub Khan soon came to
know that the World Bank would not pay a single penny for this badly designed
project of Tarbela Dam. Since, a large dam was part of the treaty, the GOP
commenced work on Tarbela Dam out of the funds received for Kalabagh Dam and
later approached other countries, who agreed to finance the project on terms and
conditions favored to their interests. The reasons for switching over to Tarbela Dam
were never made known to the public which ofcource was not in a position of raising
any voice against the authority of the Martial Law Government. Kalabagh Dam was
therefore thrown into the dustbin and all the resources were diverted towards Tarbela
Dam. However, a lollypop was given to the nation stating that since it is intended to
built a series of dams on the Indus river, soon after completion of Tarbela all
machinery and trained man-power would be diverted towards construction of
Kalabagh and later on completion of Kalabagh, these resources would be utilized for
.construction of dam(s)upstream of Tarbela at suitable sites

Tarbela’s hurried and faulty design brought Pakistan near total catastrophe in 1974. It
was only the Almighty that saved Pakistan from complete devastation. An accidental
stuck-up of tunnel gates at Tarbela forced the operating authorities dump the full
reservoir and when the reservoir was completely depleted it was found that large sink
holes have developed on the immediate upstream of the dam. This is a phenomenon
akin to silent heart attack, which results into sudden cardiac arrest without warning.
With a newly full reservoir no one could visualize such a happening and one fine
morning there would have been no dam resulting into the whole country being under
.4-6 feet of water

The story of Kalabagh does not end here. During Bhutto era need for another storage
seriously cropped up and research and studies with the help of both local and foreign
consultants were carried out to develop the Kalabagh feasibility studies into full
fledge project design. This design was deliberated by top world experts on dam
design, reservoir sedimentation and operation. Due care was given to various
implications involved and engineering solutions based on sophisticated techniques
were chalked out. During Zia regime the World Bank committed some U.S. $7.0
billion and kept this amount earmarked for about three years. Then suddenly an
intrigue based on dirty politics sealed the fate of the Kalabagh Dam for all times to
come. A powerful General who was Governor of NWFP in order to put pressure on
Zia for reasons best known to them, in connivance with some Consultants started
marking high flood level marks on the houses, graveyards, mosques and other
permanent structures, and set a wave of alarm among the public of fear of their
drowning. This disturbance among the people was played up so much that a strong
resistance started developing among the inhabitants of NWFP against the Dam. Most
unfortunately, these high flood level marks were neither based on facts nor had any
basis. The dam designers in particular and the engineering community in general
based on actual studies proved and showed that even in the worst scenario when both
Tarbela and Kalabagh are full and an unprecedented historic flash flood occurs, the
high flood level would not reach to a stage so as to cause any damage to the populace.
With regard to the fear of waterlogging in the Nowshera valley adequate provision
was made for tubewell installations as part of the Kalabagh project. But, the shot had
been fired and before the NWFP people fears could be quelled, the Sindh Province
came out with an entirely opposite objection to the Kalabagh Dam building i.e.
drought and water scarcity. The controversy has reached to an extent that today
almost every one in Pakistan has formed opinion either for or against the Kalabagh

If we look deep into the controversy we would clearly see the mistrust and distrust
between the Provinces being an outcome of the suppression caused by autocratic rules
and absence of democratic forces needed to freely vent and mitigate the negative

Coming back to the water scarcity problem, we find that absence of additional
storages have forced us to burden Tarbela most adversely by inflicting continued low
level drawdowns which caused racing of large sediment deposits within the reservoir
towards the Dam much before than expected. To retard the movement of sediment
towards the Dam it was required to keep the minimum pool level higher so as to keep
the delta away from the Dam and maintain the reservoir’s live storage as much as
possible. For example, Tarbela minimum pool level initially was fixed at El. 1300 and
later with the increase in sediment inflows was to be gradually raised to El. 1400 and
if need arises even higher. But, successive dry years forced us to operate the reservoir
at lower levels and as a result the toe of the delta has almost reached upto to mouth of
the intakes. As such, this year we are forced to stop water releases from the reservoir
at El. 1369 and, if we venture to lower it further all silt, sand and debris would pass
through the power intakes and damage the turbines to an extent that the power house
.shall have to be closed for repairs involving heavy amount of foreign exchange

The Kalabagh controversy started some 15 years back and during this period we did
nothing but to concentrate on rhetoric for or against Kalabagh. Although it was known
that consensus on construction of a new reservoir above or below Kalabagh will take
some time and when it somehow gets finalized then preparation of its feasibility,
design and then construction all would involve not less than 15 years. One preference
.for Kalabagh is that its designs are prepared and even the tender documents are ready

It is a well-known fact that in the world most lucrative projects were conceived but
resisted and washed out by envoirmentalists. That never was construed as end of the
day. Planners always have alternate plans ready, which unfortunately we miserably
lack. Prudence demanded that during the last 15 years we should have worked on sites
other than Kalabagh and reached a level from where the actual construction
commences. Not only that, we should have educated ourselves through research and
study of Tarbela reservoir sedimentation processes and upgraded our knowledge of
.the complexity of reservoir sedimentation

The engineering interest in reservoir sedimentation concerns three physical aspects;
(i) overall volume of trapped sediment, (ii) distribution of deposit volume, and (iii)
distribution of sediment particle size within the reservoir. The loss of storage capacity
due to sediment deposits reduces the efficacy of a reservoir to regulate the flow and to
provide a flood control. The distribution of volume of deposit determines the relative
impact of trapped sediment on the usable storage, and the distribution of particle size
effects the density of deposits as well as the potential damage caused by the ingress of
.sediment into the power inlets

A number of approaches have been developed in the world to study these
phenomenon. These include empirical methods; mathematical modeling and physical
modeling but all these approaches have their limitations and need research and study
to evaluate their effectiveness. Tarbela reservoir is one such place where ideal
.conditions exist to enhance our knowledge in area of sedimentation engineering
WAPDA was established to develop the water and power resources of the country. It
was structured as a multi-disciplinary organization with wide autonomy of working. It
was at its Zenith when it most successfully and in record time completed world’s
gigantic Indus Basin Project. Although, after the Indus Basin Project no new large
construction project with the exception of SCARP was handled by WAPDA yet, it
continued its effective and productive role of water development through research and
studies. Between 1974 to1987 under its aegis world’s largest ever undertaken
prototype research in the mechanics of alluvial channels using the canals and rivers of
Pakistan was undertaken with the collaborative sponsorship and funding from the
National Science Foundation of USA. The accomplishments under this research
endeavor provided worldwide designers of the alluvial channels new approaches
based on phenomenon hither to unknown and unobserved. Later, the WAPDA
organization entrusted with this research project was elevated into an international
sedimentation research institute in order to use its knowledge and expertise to
research and study the complex processes of sedimentation, the biggest menace and
.threat to the water resources whether these are flowing or conserved

Then a gradual apathy, unconcern and indifference on WAPDA’s part towards its
basic objective of development of water and power resources tookover; most probably
due to the attitude of its higher-ups who considered WAPDA’s role solely of a
revenue collection agency. Unfortunately, those under the top brass were also
insensitive towards the sophisticated expertise developed within the organization and
therefore did not have the capability of properly guiding or counseling the decision-
makers. The net result was that organizations that were built in decades were
destroyed and reduced to shambles in months. The star international sedimentation
research institute is now dumped into few katcha garages in a remote corner of the
city. All its sophisticated equipment has either been reduced to junk or pilfered and all
the expertise gained totally lost. This world renowned research institute is now headed
by a Sr. Engr. who has been promoted from a mechanical overseer. Similarly, another
organization, which was developed from Dams Investigation Circle (mentioned
earlier), is under so much fear and harassment that its employees have practically lost
all nerve. This organization is also being headed by a mechanical engineer who does
.not know even basics of dam engineering

Various periodic inspections of Tarbela Dam by experts recommended different
solutions to tackle the sedimentation problems of the reservoir. For testing and
researching these solutions it was proposed that immediately a physical model studies
laboratory be established at Tarbela site. This laboratory would not only undertake a
comprehensive research and study to find solutions to Tarbela problems but also cater
for future needs of other projects on the Indus River and its tributaries. In this regard
collaborative efforts were made with a prestigious Chinese sedimentation research
institute. But, with the departure of those who were instrumental in developing of this
collaborative activity with the Chinese, every thing was thrown to airs. The Chinese
are constructing a very large dam namely “Three Gorges Project”. This project is not
only being researched in a physical-modeling laboratory at the site but at every major
engineering university in the country. What a pity? We who claim to have world’s
most integrated water resource and conveyance system do not have even one
laboratory in the country capable of studying dams, reservoirs or sedimentation
problems. On the other hand, as announced by the Chief Executive, we are planning
to construct a number of reservoirs and, unfortunately, do not posses the basic
infrastructure to study the complexities involved. The one laboratory at Nandipure
under the Punjab Irrigation Department is not even sufficient to handle Punjab
Irrigation’s own problems and the efficacy and efficiency of this laboratory portrays
.the same story of apathy

WAPDA has now come up with its dream of “vision 2025”. With the present level of
in-house knowledge and expertise can it even initiate such a utopic program? We talk
of constructing projects like Bhasha Dam. Unfortunately, we think of Bhasha
probably similar to a plaza. This project is going to be far more problematic than
Tarbela (Refer Panel of Experts Report-1988). No local firm (s) is capable of
undertaking its investigations without active collaboration of foreign
experts/specialists. Had we continued the research and study efforts started way back
within WAPDA, we by now would have achieved a level of knowledge whereby our
dependency on foreign expertise had been minimal. But, we wasted all opportunities
.and chances. No we can do nothing but hold Namaz- e- Istasqa

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