Water crisis in Pakistan


Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a briefing on the national water security strategy on Monday and directed immediate commencement of construction work of Diyamer Basha dam hydropower projected. The delay in the launching of this project for various reasons resulted in cost escalation from $12.5billion in 2008 to $14 billion in 2013. The construction cost may have escalated further. Previously, symbolic ground breaking ceremonies of this multidimensional project had been done but with no follow up efforts that made its construction an elusive dream. In the briefing the Prime Minister was told that pending issues that caused delay in the completion of procedural requirements of the project have been addressed, which included acquisition of land for the dam site, resettlement of displaced people, payment of compensation to them, territorial dispute between the provinces of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan and above all funding by foreign donors.. It merits mention that initially the Asian Development has shown willingness to channelize some finances for the project but later declined to do so, telling the reason of limited monetary space available with bank to collaborate in funding with other global lending agencies. It was because of uncertainty about funding of foreign exchange component of the project that last PML-N government decided in May, 2018 to undertake construction of water reservoir alone of Diyamer Basha dam at a cost Rs.530 billion from domestic financial resources, deferring the electricity generation part of the project to some opportune time. It is encouraging that funding from global donor agencies will come to meet foreign exchange component of the project. After completion, Diyamer Basha dam will meet both agriculture and energy needs of the country. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and broadcasting Lt General (Rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwaa said in tweeter message that he is making announcement about the construction of Diyamer Basha dam. The economic benefits of the project include irrigation water storage of 1.2 million acres, hydel power generation of 4500 megawatt, providing direct employment of 16,500 people, and slowing the downstream silting process in the Indus River to the reservoir of Tarbella dam, which will extend its life by further 35 years. Pakistan has become water stressed country. The per capita water availability has reduced from 5000 cubic meters to 100 cubic meters over the past four decades. Silting has reduced storage capacity of Tarbella dam reservoir from 13.681 million acre feet to 9.36 million acre feet. Likewise, the storage capacity of Mangla dam reservoir has gone down from 7.2 million acre feet to 4.5 million acre feet. The country has the water storage capacity in the reservoirs of big dams hardly for 36 days. Other countries of the world have built up water storage capacity for 120 days. Credit must be given to an important institution of the state of Pakistan for addressing the looming threat of water scarcity by 2025.