The Issue Of The Kalabagh Dam Environmental Sciences Essay

Pakistan has faced energy crisis problems from the start but they were very mild and were being dealt with very well. It was not until the 1990s that the problem of the energy crisis started to get serious due to the rise in the demand for it. Dams can be defined as fence which stops the water or upstream rivers. (

The main purpose of any dam is to keep hold of water. Dams can also be used to collect water or can be used in order to store water, in order to equally distribute between different areas. Hydropower is often used in union with dams, in order to generate electricity.

Kalabagh is a small town in province Punjab located in Mianwali district. Kalabagh was the location which was proposed for building the Kalabagh dam, as this place is located on the western side of the river Indus.

The main idea of Kalabagh dam was going on from decades but once again it was brought up by General Pervez Musharaf, but due to problems and conflicts raised between Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan; this issue has still not been worked upon. Out of all four provinces, Punjab is the only province which is favor of building the Kalabagh dam. And Punjab is the strongest of all four provinces, and has centralized government legislation. The other three provinces are completely against this decision and have passed undivided resolutions rejecting the project of building Kalabagh dam. This is because Baluchistan and Sindh would not benefit much from the Kalabagh project; instead they would suffer from even more water shortages.

Baluchistan is not directly affected by the building of Kalabagh dam. However, the Sardar’s of Baluchistan often says that the construction of Kalabagh dam is a way in which the province Punjab will rule over other small provinces. And because of these conflicts and disputes, the project is still not been finalized.

The opposition groups, who are against the construction of Kalabagh dam, often say that this project will have very adverse impacts on the environment. Secondly, the construction site which is currently home for thousands and millions of people will become no more available for them.

If we have to highlight the major cause of not building the dam, we can with no doubt blame the lack of trust between the Punjab government and the other three provinces. The other three provinces have this hatred for Punjab and this could be a result of over intervention of the Pakistan army, which comprises majority of Punjabis and Pathan, all over Pakistan, especially Sindh. Another reason for the hatred can be the ethno-nationalists that give rise to the anti-Punjabi sentiment amongst the public.

If the Kalabagh dam project is constructed, then it would be able to have a live storage capacity of 6.1 million acre feet (MAF). This amount would make extensive contribution to boost the irrigation supplies. It will not only enhance the food irrigation for the new projects; but it will also increase the additional allotment decided by the provinces under the water apportionment accord (WAA) of 1991.

Another major advantage of building kalabagh dam is that it will increase a huge amount of cheap hydropower to the national grid through its 2,400 mw (ultimate 3,600 mw) installed power.

Building Kalabagh dam will also replace the storage previously lost by sedimentation in present reservoirs at Mangla, Chashma and Tarbela. The dam will provide further storage which can be helpful in achieving the present water shortages faced during early Kharif, i.e. the sowing period of April-June. It will also provide efficient directive of Indus River in order to meet the additional Kharif allocations of the provinces under Waa, 1991. Once the dam will be constructed, it will regulate and control the high flood rise in Indus; and will enable provision of tube well irrigations to the river rain area in the south. Lastly, talking about the advantages, while the construction process, 30,000 people will be employed during the construction and a large number of people will get jobs after the construction, as maintenance and operators. Thus, boosting Pakistan’s GDP and moving Pakistan towards economic growth.

If the dam is not constructed, than Pakistan will have to face even more severe crisis of high fuel prices. As the yearly energy generated at Kalabagh, if the dam is build would be equal to 20 million barrels of oil. If Pakistan imports this amount of fuel for thermal generation, than it would be additional burden on the economy.

The federal government has taken some measures in order to overcome the load-shedding Pakistan is currently facing. And in order to do this, the government has signed agreement with international private sector of installing over 3,000 mw of thermal power over the next 4 years. This might help in overcoming the load-shedding. However, the power cost will increase drastically. As these private electricity companies are very expensive electricity producers. So, Kalabagh hydropower dam would be very cheap in comparison to keep the cost of electricity within affordability of the nation of Pakistan.

Literature review

The issue of Kalabagh is an immense issue which has resulted in conflicts and arguments between all the provinces of Pakistan. Some of the arguments against the building of the dam include negative environmental and social impacts. The Kalabagh dam has to face extensive examination and checking from the world dam commission. So, it is likely that these checks might slow down the construction of the Kalabagh dam. The oppositions to the dam often blame the low trustworthiness of government and its agencies, which includes both federal and provincial government for creating an information gap between the original debate of the Kalabagh dam and the discussions which are done by other parties on this issue.

The parties in favor of the dam often argue that the construction of Kalabagh dam will help in meeting the urgent needs of cheap energy and cheap food supply for the speedily growing population.

The government of Punjab is trying to construct a dam on a very large scale. This is done in order to generate 3,600 mw electric power, and store 6.1 MAF water. On the other hand, if this dam is constructed, it will have many adverse effects. The loss caused by constructing this dam will be loss of 182,000 acres of productive land. Other than this many people will be displaced from their homes.

There is a whole set of reasons that goes against the building of the Kalabagh dam. The first reason is the absence of good governance. The project of Kalabagh dam has mostly faced a lack of governance. The people who are the decision makers of the whole project have to also deal with the society and their concerns.

Due to the side effects that Kalabagh dam would have an alternative plan called the Tarbela action plan has been proposed. This plan is made through the sediment flow simulations made by the computers. The two purposes that these simulations have are, to see if flushing is feasible for estimating storage capacity in the long run and to analyze reservoirs and predict future sedimentation. On the results of the above simulation three components have been proposed which should be done in order to build the dam. These include reservoir operating strategy, underwater dike and flushing bypass.

Reservoir operating strategy works in the way that first the reservoir should be reached at a minimum level and then gradually growing it each year by a small amount. This would ensure the tunnel security until the underwater dike is made. A rock file dike underwater should be made to prevent sediment to overwhelm. Then a bypass would have to be made at a low level with a high capacity in order to be able to flush the sediment. If the plan is implemented this way it would make the storage sustainable. The loss that would be occurred would be more or less what the Kalabagh dam would be designed to take.

As is the Kalabagh dam have many issues. The crop yield increasing that has been projected is only in the case when water logging and salinity is put out of the consideration. Hydel energy is really expensive which adds to the environmental costs. Many ecosystems that live in the mangrove forests and are relying on the Indus River would be degraded.

Many opposition parties often ignore all these valuable blessings of building Kalabagh dam and still oppose to the building of the dam. Some of the reasons for this opposition are that there is no evidence given to the opposing parties about the costs of hydro power as compared to other sources which provide energy. Other than this, there is a deficiency of organized assessment of the cost of Kalabagh water and the costs of substitute ways of increasing deliverance of water used in the irrigation system and at the same time dropping the wastage in the use of irrigation used water.( Kalabagh dam: an ecological disaster by Abrar Kazi)

The adverse impacts of the Kalabagh dam which much opposition argue are, that, it is not yet clear that whether the water flowing from the Indus is enough for filling up the dam in next few years. Another argument is that, the water flowing below Kotri, if it is reduced, than it will affect the people who are very much dependant on this water flowing from underneath Kotri and then utilizes this water on agriculture and fisheries in the coastal Sindh. It will ruin the lives of many people living in the coastal Sindh. The situation becomes more alarming when WAPDA avoid this sort of statistics and rejects to undertake comprehensive and credible studies on this matter.

The federal government in response says that, every year, 35maf water goes wasted into the sea, downstream of Kotri. However this wasted water can be used to bring a huge amount of new land used for cultivation and can be used to produce more food. In response to the siltation of land, the federal government says that more dams can help in replacing the lost storage of existing dams. As otherwise we are actually losing the existing storage due to siltation of previous reservoirs.

The WAPDA figures in 1987 showed that there was a system loss of an average of 10 MAF in the post Mangla period. However, these figures were doubted, as once the Tarbela dam was built, it was seen that the river regime conditions worsened in 1977. The average yearly system losses in post Tarbela era (1976-94) increased to 14.7 maf as in opposition to 6.2 MAF in the post Mangla pre-Tarbela period (1967-76), showing an increase of 8.5 MAF.

Another problem is that, in the Indus basin there is high levels of water logging and salinity, and if the irrigation supplied are to be increased it will just add more to the water logging and salinity to an alarming level in the Indus basin which could be very dangerous. Organizations which drain out the water, such as, national drainage program will take a long time period in reducing the water level from the basins to the sea, and even then, there is a huge probability that it will create a lot of problems and will take a lot of time, as there is no other alternative way of draining the runoff into the sea.

The other issues are the financial issues related with the building of Kalabagh dam. There is a very tiny possibility of our government in getting financial aid from international organizations. Most probably the dam will only increases are countries debts. However, if private infrastructure funds are attracted to finance the Kalabagh dam at a high return rate, it is uncertain that the project will still stay fiscally and cost-effectively feasible.

Meetings of the council of common interests will remain a poor substitute for responsible and responsive governance.

There is an urgent need for the multi ethnic general public involvement on these vital issues of both ethical and officially authorized civil rights to once own life and livelihood that enclose claims to water. Simply in identifying this issue we can sincerely initiate effort towards forging a nationwide agreement on whether or not to construct Kalabagh, rather than by holding conferences amongst councils, who decide on these serious issues.

The benefits of Kalabagh dam are considerable. Kalabagh dam will replace the loss of storage in the Tarbela and Mangla moreover it will increase the total quantity of stored water facilitating further and well-timed discharge for irrigation use in order to boost the food grain production. (Kalabagh: need for informed debate by Aly Ercelawn & Omar Asghar Khan)


Kalabagh dam is protect that would bring about many changes and many of those changes would be very hard, costly and destructive to cope. Kalabagh dam project is based on many assumptions that are either not true or are just one side of the story. I believe that Kalabagh dam does indeed have some significantly important points to support itself in the construction of it such as the electricity generation and increased food supply through growth in irrigation. However at the same time i believe that Kalabagh dam should not be built when looking at the adverse affects that it would have on the economy. Kalabagh dam is thought to be only useful or living for 22-30 years this means that the cost of making it would not be fully recovered and the replacement of the dam by a new project after its useful life would be again a major expense and hassle. Many other affects of the Kalabagh dam could not be left without putting a great deal of thought into it. The project would affect lots of people and land. Through the Kalabagh dam lots of farmland would be lost and hence the food production would also go down. This would ultimately affect the GDP of Pakistan and cause a national decline. Many people who live in those areas where the dam has to be built would have to be re-homed to new places which is very expensive and could mean that the whole project could be useless in regards the cost. Not only would the government have to re home the people who would be left homeless but also many of the roadways such as the Attock-Talang roadway and railway service would have to be planned all over again. The Sui gas line in the north would also be affected and the re-construction of that would be very costly as well. Moving on, however much costly the problems mentioned above are they can still be tackled with nonetheless. Many of the issues are much more serious and would have an impact on our environment and society for much long-lasting or even indefinite time. One such issue would be the lost of the forest. The mangrove forests that would be effected would cost Pakistan the loss of massive wildlife and would cause many diseases through disruptions in the in the food chain. For a healthy atmosphere we need forests and the wildlife that its caters, if the forests are affected not only do humans suffer through the loss of food chains and loss of trees which are useful for production in many finished goods but also the changes in percentages of gasses in the atmosphere would be very harmful for the human life. Even if these issues could be catered for and the Kalabagh dam could maintain its costs through its benefits it would be a project that could be given a thought. However, the physical properties and uses of the dam have also failed to produce a truly glorious picture. Kalabagh dam has been projected to produce 43.5 MAF electricity according to WAPDA however, initially WAPDA itself announced a figure of 23.5 MAF on the basis of the past 60 years of records, when they realized that this figure was too small they gave a new higher figure and claimed it to be on the basis of the last 22 years. This clearly shows that the figures provided by the government and WAPDA are not very reliable. In the case of the Tarbela dam governments had also produced wrong figures that proved to be wrong and disastrous for the provinces of Sindh and Baluchistan. Sindh and Baluchistan believe that they would have to suffer from water shortages and the Punjab would get the benefit. Kalabagh dam would also cause water logging by putting backpressure on the river Kabul. River Indus would also be polluted and the existing problem of water shortage would just be increased by the Kalabagh project. Studies have also showed that if worked to their full capacities, the existing dams are enough for the production of the electricity need of Pakistan. Kalabagh dam would only cause more frustration and decline in the growth of Pakistan’s economy and would hamper the production of energy instead of increasing it. The dispute from the three provinces would lead to a national dispute and would mean a conflict at both the level of society as well as the parliament. All the benefits of the Kalabagh dam that the supporters of it have put forward have never been reliable enough and face criticisms and face valid problems. These problems in my opinion must be first overcome through other minor projects, which are safer, and if it is still necessary then the Kalabagh project should be given a thought. Other minor projects include ghazi Barotha and Bhasha dams.


To conclude i would like to say that Kalabagh dam does have many good points as stated in the literature review such as the eradication of energy crisis and the increase in the irrigation increasing the supply of food. However the costs and the affects of this project are quite massive and could result in increasing the problems instead of solving it. The adverse affects of the Kalabagh dam are very massive and must be given a very careful review before any decision is made. Kalabagh dam has many negative points to it and there are very little reliable solutions to those problems that have been given. In the light of the current situation the decision to not allow the construction of the Kalabagh dam is the correct decision and until any better proposal or solutions to the problems mentioned above are not found permitting the construction of Kalabagh dam would most likely turn out to be a disaster. To overcome the current energy crisis of Pakistan, there should be an attempt to strictly supervise the production of energy that is present from the existing plants and these should produce at their best capacity. This might reflect that many of the studies that have shown that with the existing plants producing energy at their best in Pakistan the energy crisis could be solved altogether might be true. This strategy might eradicate the whole need for the Kalabagh or a new dam or a plant to produce energy at the first place. If the problem still persists and proves the analogy of existing plants being able to meet the energy demand of Pakistan wrong then other small projects should be tried first which would not have so much of the adverse affects related to them such as the Bhasha dam and the ghazi Barotha dam project. These small projects are thought to be much more effective as they have little impact on the society and still can produce higher energy, however these dams also have environmental and humanly costs related to them and therefore should be avoided as much as possible.

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