Briefing the Senate Standing Committee (SSC) on water resources on June 6, Chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Muzammil Hussain offered to give control of the proposed Kalabagh dam to the province of Sindh in order to dispel reservations about the possible depletion of water after the dam’s construction. Since 1984, when the Kalabagh dam controversy was given an ethnic and provincial colour till today, Pakistan’s water predicament has worsened. It was the Martial Law regime of General Ziaul Haq which first politicised the construction of Kalabagh Dam. According to a recently released International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Pakistan is the third most water deficient country in the world. The WADPA Chairman rightly said that Pakistan has a water storage capacity of only 30 days, whereas India has water reserves which can meet its requirements for 170 days. Since the completion of Tarbela dam in 1974, no mega dam has been constructed in Pakistan, whereas the population of the country has tripled in the last 44 years. The feasibility of the Kalabagh dam is not the issue, because the paper work and other important details about water storage and power generation project over river Indus at Kalabagh were prepared a long time ago. Unfortunately, the conflict dynamics of Kalabagh dam primarily rest on lack of consensus among provinces. The provincial assemblies of three out of the four provinces have passed resolutions against the construction of the Kalabagh dam for a variety of reasons. For instance, the assembly of the North Western Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) rejected Kalabagh dam because it feared that Nowshera would be submerged under water if the dam was constructed. On the other hand, the provincial assembly of Sindh resolved that because of the construction of Kalabagh dam, Sindh as the lower riparian province will be dry because of the non-availability of water. Only Punjab favours the construction of Kalabagh dam, as it expects the easing of electricity shortages and the availability of more water for agriculture. With such strong reservations, it has been rather impossible for any government since 1984 to proceed with the construction of Kalabagh dam as such a step is considered dangerous for the unity and integrity of Pakistan. Kalabagh dam is our best chance at stopping the wastage of billions of gallons of water during the monsoon season. It will also produce around 4,500 megawatts of cheap electricity Subscribing to the reservations against the construction of Kalabagh dam without consensus, the WADPA Chairman in his briefing before the SSC on water resources said, “Kalabagh Dam should be built with consensus of all political parties. Reservations of Sindh are justified and the Kalabagh dam should be handed over to the province if it is built.” On June 9, while taking a suo motu notice of water shortages and the Kalabagh dam issue in the Supreme Court’s Karachi registry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) made it clear that the purpose of the bench is to suggest measures for mitigating the water crisis in Pakistan. He will not take a position on the construction of the dam, but wants more water reservoirs to be built in the country at the earliest. According to the Pakistan Council of Research in water resources, Pakistan reached the water stress line in 1990 and crossed the water scarcity line in 2005 whereas, it has been warned that Pakistan will reach ‘absolute scarcity’ levels by 2025. The CJP also expressed alarm over the dangerous water crisis in Quetta and warned that if adequate measures were not taken, Quetta will be soon be completely dry. Due to the politicisation of the issue; the Kalabagh Dam has been put in cold storage and no serious effort has been made to remove the reservations of smaller provinces about its construction. In the summer of 1998 following the nuclear tests, the then government of PML-N brought up the Kalabagh issue out of the blue, and called for its construction. This led to the formation of the Pakistan Oppressed Movement Nations (PONAM), which vehemently opposed it. Three major realities shape the conflict dynamics of Kalabagh dam. First, Pakistan has not built any mega dam since 1974, which threatens our already depleted water resources. With India proceeding with its violations of the Indus Water Treaty by constructing dams over Jhelum and Chenab; and Afghanistan constructing a dam over river Kabul, Pakistan’s water predicament is certainly alarming. Taking this into account, Kalabagh dam is the most appropriate option to deal with the wastage of millions of acres of water during the monsoon season. It will also produce around 4,500 megawatts of cheap electricity. During the 1960s, when the idea to build a dam on river Indus in the Kalabagh area was conceived, the cost was around $2 billion but now its cost has risen to 12 billion. The Diamar-Basha dam is another option, but cannot match the feasibility of the Kalabagh project. Secondly, the Kalabagh fiasco is a classic case of intra-state water conflict. It has exposed internal contradictions of Pakistan and undermines the country’s national harmony. One should also try to understand the reality that as long as there are vested interest groups who use ethnicity and so-called nationalistic feelings to further their provincial political goals, there will be no consensus about the Kalabagh Dam. Pervez Musharraf himself has said that he could make no headway in the dam’s construction because of threats of serious backlash from Sindhi nationalists. Lack of political will and vision, corruption and incompetence are the four major reasons which block progress and development in this country, and it is these very issues which have stopped the Kalabagh project in its tracks. Unless these four issues are addressed, the state of this country will not improve. The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. E. Mail: [email protected] Published in Daily Times, June 15th 2018.