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Kalabagh Dam And Hydroelectric Power In Pakistan Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3086 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Kalabagh Dam was one of the proposed projects in Pakistan when it comes to hydroelectric power plants in the country. The proposed Kalabagh Dam was supposed to be built on Indus River. Government of Pakistan was the patronage authority in the construction. Mianwali District was selected as the proposed site of the damn exactly situated at Kalabagh. The region was close to the border of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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The very inception of this project was controversial and different governments had a serious debate on the construction of this reservoir. It was finally in December 2005 when, then General Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan announced that Kalabagh Dam will be constructed for the greater interest of Pakistan. He made several arrangements for the construction as well during his regime.

It was back in May 2008 when Raja Pervez Ashraf, the Federal Minister for Water and Power of Pakistan called off the Kalabagh Dam project. Raja Pervez Ashraf further justified his decision by stating that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and other stakeholders involved in the project were opposing severely and it was not feasible. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gilani stated in one of his interviews post the 2010 Flood that devastation would have been way less if Kalabagh Dam was constructed.

Kalabagh Dam was a multi-purpose project in terms of nature and was expected to have a storage capacity of 6.1 million acre feet (MAF). The project was expected to back the Water Apportionment Accord (WAA) that happened in 1991 according to which the irrigation system to provinces was to be streamlined. In addition to this, the objective of Kalabagh Dam was the availability of cheap hydropower. The National Grid was expecting a rise of 3600MW in the production capacity.

Kalabagh Dam was supposed to take up 110,500 sq. Miles of Catchment area in the Kalabagh Region in District Mianwali. According to the statistical analysis, the location had a maximum flood record of 1,200,200 cusecs of water back in 1929. The average annual water flow at the location is found to be an enormous 91.4 MAF that best suits the location to be turned into a Dam. Kalabagh Dam was a mega project with an expected gross capacity of 7.9 MAF and live capacity of 6.1 MAF.

It was planned that Kalabagh Dam is going to have power units each generating 300MW, 12 in quantity with the turbine head design of 170 feet. The complete powerhouse was an indoor one and the production in the initial phase was expected to be around 2400MW and ultimately rise to 3600MW in the running phase.

The expected cost of this project back in 1997 was somewhat around Rs. 250 Billion when the US Dollar was floating at Rs. 45.

Kalabagh Dam was planned for the greater interest of the country and its resources. Pakistan being one of the blessed countries around the world has a lot of fresh water supplies round the year. The geography of this country is well suited for dams and water storages both for storage purposes and power generation purposes. Kalabagh Dam was proposed for settling down the irrigation system and had hydropower potentials as well. The greatest advantage of Kalabagh dam was that it was rendering great results on an extremely affordable price tag.

Kalabagh Dam was the least expensive multi-purpose solution to both the irrigation and power outages. Both the irrigation and power generation capacities of Pakistan were expected to rise considerably through the project. It was expected to be the second great irrigation system after the Indus Basin Project in the late 1960’s with similar role of making a good start towards a unified national water resource development-cum-management system. The project was all set to start in 1980’s and the project would have been in the working condition by 21st Century according to the technology back then.

The controversy started developing from the very start of the project and rose from the province of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The controversies were all entirely based on lack of information or hear say. There were reservations in the minds of many people around these provinces based on pure conservative thoughts. There were many revisions made in the initial phase in order to make it seem friendly to an average mind but that too, was of no use.


As stated earlier, the construction of Kalabagh Dam triggered a great controversy amongst the four provinces of Pakistan. It was just Punjab that favored the project that is also the strongest province amongst the four. The other three provinces expressed their reservations and dissatisfaction on the project and their provincial assemblies passed resolution against the proposal. This places the project into the consideration phase for a long time until it was confirmed in 2005 and then rejected in 2008.

WAPDA has already highlighted the fact that Pakistan is going to be facing severe water shortage in the future if nothing was done to create storages. The water availability in 1951 was as low as 5260 cubic meters while it fell to 1038 cubic meters in 2010 whereas the population was 34 million and 172 million respectively. According to statistics, the least to maintain the states of a water sufficient country is 1000+ cubic meters of water.

There are even assumptions that the construction of dam is going to adversely affect the environment as well as any other large dam does. The construction might also displace a number of people from the site locations. The construction was planned to initiate in 1984 but didn’t start even as yet.

Punjab’s Point of View:

Punjab is the only province in complete favor of the Kalabagh Dam as this project was expected to supply both water and hydro-electric power for a very nominal cost. Water demands in Punjab are also higher as the population here is great as compared to other parts of the country. The water that flows into the Arabian Sea is a pure waste for those living in Punjab where the water can be used to irrigate lands that are infertile.

Punjab is in dire need of two dams apart from just the Kalabagh Dam at Bhasha and Skardu. Kalabagh Dam’s site is best suited and this would have been built at the first place according to the needs of the province. The dam was best suited to irrigate Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar.

Punjab is the province that will be affected to the maximum extent if the Kalabagh Dam is not built. The Water Treaty between Pakistan and India that initiated in 1960s set the royalty of Sutlej and Bias into the hands of India. Ever since this treaty was signed, the Ravi, Sutlej and Bias are used only the season of floods when India needs to release water.

Electricity produced by water is the cheapest amongst all that is produced by other resources. The province even agreed that it is not going to claim any royalty despite the fact that the location of Kalabagh was situated in Punjab.

Sindh’s Point of View:

The strongest of the opponents of Kalabagh Dam is Sindh on grounds of “theft of water by Punjab”. Sindh claims that Indus River belongs to it by virtue of the name and history. Sindh further claimed that the construction of Mangla and Tarbela was the greatest theft of water that was used for irrigation in Singh. Sindh raised objection on the share of Indus water that they receive. The claim was that Kalabagh Dam will irrigate Punjab and North-West Frontier Province.

Sindh also claimed that the coastal areas of the province demand constant supplies of water into the Arabian Sea so that the water from the sea does not intrude into the land. This intruding would leave a lot of area of Sindh into saline desert that will come up as an environmental issue. This will also destroy the coastal mangroves.

The construction of Mangla Dam and Tarbela Dam already turned the mighty Indus River turn into a stream post the Kotri Barrage in Hyderabad. They also justified that big dams cannot made on water that comes mainly from rain as it does not rain throughout the year. If there was no rain, Sindh didn’t see any water post the Kotri Barrage. The location is said to be unsuitable for such a construction as there are numerous fractures on the lowest point of the valley.

There were a number of other environmental problems that were not addressed in the past. Silt is the greatest of the issues that can cause water shortage affecting the capacity of Manchar Lake and Haleji Lake. The Sindhis were not convinced with the efforts of President Musharraf and the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz referring to the water theft that took place in 1991.

Political Parties like Muttahida Qaumi Movement who was in favor of General Musharraf and was ally in the Federal Assembly were severely opposing the idea of Kalabagh Dam. Parties like PMLN retracted themselves from their stances stating that the Dam should be built for the greater interest of the country.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Point of View:

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s point of view is pretty different from that of other provinces. Their first claim was that Punjab was never good at fulfilling promises. The province was not even credible for keeping up the constitutional guarantees. Another of their concern was with reference to the Ghazi-Barotha hydro electric power. They claim that the entire canal system of Ghazi-Barotha system run in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while the turbines lie 500 meters within the Punjab province but the royalty is rejected to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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The royalty of generation of Kalabagh dam became an issue even when the project was finalized as people living in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa expected the Federal Government to be unjust in giving royalty to the province instead expected them to go for the favor of Punjab. They also stated that the Nowshehra District will be submerged by the dam and there will be even more region of the province being affected from water-logging and salinity.

Balochistan’s Point of View:

Balochistan is not directly affected by the Kalabagh Dam rather there have been a number of nationalists Baloch Standards that consider that Punjab has been ruling the smaller provinces in the past.


Kalabagh dam has been a dispute ever since the very idea was incepted. There have been severe opposition to the construction of Kalabagh Dam through all times from three Provinces of Pakistan and none apart from Punjab only have favored the construction of Kalabagh Dam. There were different grounds posed by other provincial governments justifying that Kalabagh Dam should not be constructed. General Pervez Musharraf, ex-president Pakistan had subtle plans to construct Kalabagh Dam in 2016 according to the feasibility report (Fulcher, 2006).

The dam site close to Kohat region and the Khewra salt mines was controversial from the very first day and the later was the largest operating salt mine around the world. There was a huge risk that the salt will leach in huge quantities from the ranges into the river Indus and the overall hydrology of the region is going to change drastically. This came up as another great concern to the opponents who were not in the favor of Kalabagh Dam.

The aforementioned literature review has set a lot of things clear to us including the advantages and disadvantages of Kalabagh Dam. The Water and Power Development Authority has suggested that the total land that will be submerged as a result of Kalabagh Dam is around 14,000 hectares (Fulcher, 2006). There were certain independent assessments as well some of which went high up to a massive 74,000 hectares. The later assessments were all exaggerated and were meant for nothing but propaganda against the proposed developmental projects. Even the first part of the assessment did not account for the land that will be inundated in case of a river flood occurrence. It even does not account for the land that will be taken up in case the level of the river rose.

The construction of Kalabagh Dam has a number of advantages apart from the few disadvantages too. There is no way that we can ignore the disadvantages but we can certainly look for ways to reduce the impact. There are advocated distributed all across the country apart from the opponents. The major advocacy comes from the province of Punjab and from the technocrats of Khyber Pakhtoonkhuwah. They have a number of claims to advocate that Kalabagh Dam is going to assist the country getting rid of power and water shortage.

The best advocacy lies in the water shortage. As mentioned above, Pakistan is moving towards a state where water scarcity is going to prevail and the possibility of one dam on the Indus River (Iyer, 2006) comes up as the best justification that sets Kalabagh Dam an important project. It is not only agriculture that Kalabagh Dam is associated with but also electricity. There has been a serious power shortage for years now and the most appropriate solution to the shortage is hydroelectric power that Pakistan has the potential of generating at a very reasonable price. The manufacturing sector of the country needs Kalabagh Dam for the power issue for a sustainable progress of the country (Khan, 2009).

Mangla Dam, Tarbela Dam, Chashma Barrage were excellent projects that provided Pakistan with water for irrigation and power at the same place but the siltation process has caused a lot of volume deficit. The sedimentation in the dam cannot be dealt with until or unless an alternative is built and the best alternative perhaps is Kalabagh Dam. Kalabagh Dam will come up as an addition storage volume that will meet the water deficiency in the early Kharif period ranging from the months of April-June. This has a critical value for the cotton crop growing in Sindh. The Kalabagh Dam, on the whole will allocate water according to the WAA-1991 and will regulate high flood risks in the Indus river as well as producing Hydro-Power to power the whole of Pakistan (Khokhar, 2008).

In times when Tarbela was not build, the annual average water escape was 38 Million Acre Feet below Kotri that rose to 64 later on. With the construction of Kalabagh Dam, this can be brought back to 32MAF (Al-Khobar, 2011). Another 26MAF out of this 32 can be easily controlled and utilized to bring the backward areas of Pakistan into use by using the national water resources development approach.

The primary energy source of Pakistan is oil and gas where the demand oil and gas in the country is estimated to be around 51 million tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) (The Nations, 2010). Pakistan is producing 34 million TOE annually while the deficit is met through imports primarily. As an alternative to this, the large scale hydropower incorporated with a multi-purpose storage can help reduce the cost of electric supply within the reach of a standard consumer.

The best part of Kalabagh Dam is the addition of 2400 MW of electric power to the National Grid in the early phase and ultimately rising to 3600 MW installed power (WAPDA). This will greatly reduce the load shedding issue that the country is facing as of now with the industry and production going in serious debt.

A neutral debate will get in a lot more then this into account and one can find another set of advantages of Kalabagh Dam for the prosperity and integrity of this country. The greatest of them is a reduced dependency on imported fuels that accounts for a huge sum of our foreign reserve. Kalabagh Dam can ensure economic prosperity of Pakistan if the project is handled with care. It also produces employment for 30,000 individuals around the country during the construction phase and there will be a lot more who will be employed after the project is commissioned.

Construction price is another concern for Government of Pakistan while the direct benefits from Kalabagh dam suggest that the dam will pay 25 billion per annum therefore accounting for the whole investment in 9-10 years (Khokhar, 2008). The energy generated at Kalabagh Dam is expected to be around 20 million barrels of oil annually. This will help cutting short the import budget as well as the transportation and handling charges that are charged for processing the imported oil.

Apart from the economic point of view, the Kalabagh Dam Project has several social benefits too out of which settling down of the grievance from Southern Punjab are the greatest of all. Kalabagh Dam is going to irrigate major parts of Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar therefore a major grievance from the region will be settled down itself. In addition, Punjab province does not claim any royalty on the generation of resources from Kalabagh Dam, it is just the deficiency of trust that does not let this project happen.


Pakistan is into a state where the deficiencies are at its peaks. Pakistan has long been known as an agricultural country and agriculture is not possible without irrigation. The current situation is moving rapidly towards water scarcity therefore causing serious harm to the agricultural sector of Pakistan. In addition to that, the electric power generation sources have all been exhausted. Even Mangla Dam and Tarbela Dam have moved into the last stages of their lives, the need of Kalabagh Dam this minute is critical to meet the needs of both irrigation and power.

There are numerous disadvantages of the construction of Kalabagh Dam that has raised a serious opposition from other parts of the country mainly from Khyber Pakhtoonkhuwah and Sindh Provinces. The overall opposition has been propagated so well that the common man living in these regions talks about the disadvantages of Kalabagh Dam and not about the advantages. This is not just it: Punjab has long been known as the powerful dictating province that is another serious hindrance in the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

Kalabagh Dam, once constructed will render a number of advantages to the country both socially and economically cutting short the power deficit that prevails in the country. I am sitting in dark this minute due to power shortage here in Pakistan and there is no solution that seems to be apart from construction of hydroelectric power that is both cheap and convenient..


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