Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kalabagh out of water sector plan?

Kalabagh out of water sector plan
(DAWN March 29, 2005)
By Sabihuddin Ghausi
KARACHI, March 28: The much talked about Kalabagh dam does not find even a casual reference in the draft of the Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) that stipulates an allocation of Rs293 billion for water sector out of the proposed total outlay of Rs2094.2 billion for the five-year period (2005-10). Of the Rs293 billion proposed for the sector, the federal government will be spending Rs242 billion and the provincial governments Rs51 billion. The document states that the allocated funds are insufficient for completing all the ongoing projects, and at least Rs16 billion would be needed even after the five-year plan period to complete a few of them. "This does not leave any room for any new project in the plan," the MTDF concedes. It points out that an important issue in the water sector is 'shortage of funds' for timely completion of the projects. It indicates the possibility of exploring resources outside the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and hints at approaching the private sector. The initial construction cost of the controversial Kalabagh dam was estimated at $12 billion in 1996 - at the current dollar-rupee parity it comes to around Rs720 billion. But taking into account inflation and other factors over the last 10 years, the construction cost would now be not less than Rs1 trillion which is almost equal to the current fiscal year's total budget outlay and about half of over Rs2 trillion development outlay being proposed for the next five years. After the approval of the fiscal responsibility bill which restricts the government from taking debts, both domestic and foreign, beyond a certain limit, the possibility of taking up a project of the magnitude of Kalabagh dam has to be ruled out. Reports suggest that the World Bank and other donor institutions have already indicated their inability to finance big dams in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world because of the public outcry against massive dislocation of population and environmental degradation. Since taking over in October 1999 President Musharraf has been consistently advocating the cause of Kalabagh dam. He has declared his intention to go ahead with the project despite its opposition in Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan. The MTDF estimates the total water requirement in 2010 at 178.3 million acre feet (MAF) for irrigation and non-irrigation purposes. The current water supply at the farm gate is 135.7 MAF. The MTDF investment is expected to raise water supply to 150.3 MAF, indicating a deficit of about 28 MAF. Under the irrigation programme, the government is taking up project like Gomal dam, raising of Mangla, Mirani, Sabakzai and Satpara dams, Greater Thal, Kachhi and Raini canals and repair and modernisation of barrages in Sindh and Punjab. In addition, revamping and rehabilitation of irrigation system in Sindh and Punjab, extension and rehabilitation of Pat Feeder and Khirthar canals and construction of 46 minors in Balochistan are being planned. All these projects are expected to augment water supply by more than 14 MAF which will bring an additional 3.2 million acres of land under cultivation. The MTDF draft recognises the need for a certain amount of seepages below the Kotri barrage. The chairman of flood control has been assigned the task of carrying studies on sea water intrusion below Kotri. There is a need of at least 10 MAF seepage every year to check sea intrusion.


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