ISLAMABAD, Oct 20 (APP):Former finance minister Dr Salman Shah on Saturday said availability of water was the key to poverty alleviation as insolvency was rampant in the country’s water scarce areas.
Addressing an international symposium titled ‘Creating a Water Secure Pakistan,’ arranged by the Supreme Court of Pakistan here, he said poverty was not witnessed in areas where water was available in abundance. Availability of water was a source of life as growth of civilisation, energy and industry was also linked with it, he added.
Dr Salman said efficient water management was imperative for increasing agricultural production as almost half of the available commodity in the country was wasted due to its inefficient management system.
The entire barren lands of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said, could be irrigated by constructing the Kalabagh Dam. The construction of new water reservoirs on war footing basis was must for a prosper Pakistan as utilizing one million acre feet water could generate $2 billion income per annum, he added.
He said finances could be arranged for the construction of new water reservoirs like that of the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Generation Project, which was built through the funds collected from the electricity consumers. A small amount was imposed as Neelum-Jehelum surcharge on each electricity consumer and similarly, the water users could finance the gigantic water storage projects, he added.
He said the Diamer-Bhasha dam could be constructed in seven years and Mohmand dam in five years. The provinces should also contribute towards constructing the dams. Likewise, each of 120 million Pakistanis should contribute $5 per annum. The entire Indus River System could be developed in that way, he added.
Izhar Hunzai, former Head of Agha Khan Rural Development Programme, said Pakistan had some 2066 cubic kilometers glaciers and the challenge was 1.5 degree centigrade increase in the temperature, which could melt them. Gilgit-Baltistan, he said, had the potential to generate 1000 mw hydropower.
Donald Blackmore, former chief executive Murray-Darling Basin, said Pakistan needed to construct new water reservoirs, besides taking measures for efficient water management.
Former federal finance minister Sartaj Aziz said reduction in 45 million acre feet water wastage could help saving 30 percent water. He stressed enhancing capacity of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to complete such gigantic projects in an effective way.
He said the infrastructure of both Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams should be constructed with the people’s donations. Once the infrastructure was completed, businessmen and banks would be ready to invest in the project, he added.
He stressed on the need for taking measures to conserve water and asked the provinces to establish water conservation authorities.
Former Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Baig said total $20 billion was required to construct the Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dams. It meant some $2 billion per annum was needed, he added.
The Punjab government, he said, should pay 2 percent of its annual budget in the dams fund, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh one percent each. It would raise sufficient resources to complete the infrastructure of the two dams, he added.
Sardar Tariq of the Pakistan Waters Partnership said Pakistan had the capacity to store only 52 million acre feet (MAF) of water per person as compared to 6150 MAF in the United States and 5000 MAF by Australia. The US had the capacity to store water to meet its needs for 900 days, he added.
He said China had constructed 23,842 dams, the US 9,265 dams, India 5,102 dams and Japan 3,116 dams.
Gregory Morris, a sedimentation specialist, said the water storage capacity of Tarbella Dam was depleting fast and Pakistan should construct more reservoirs. Desilting of Tarbella Dam should be initiated.
He lauded the Diamer-Bhasha hyrdo power project, adding that the Kalabagh Dam was, however, not a good option.
Tahir Hayat, Vice President Nespak, said 75 percent power needs of the country could be met by constructing reservoirs at the Indus river.