Reaction to India’s water terrorism?
China has blocked an important tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo (Tibetan name for Brahmaputra River) to construct a mega dam, in a move that might impact water flow to India and Bangladesh. “The Lalho project on the Xiabuqu River in Xigaze, involves an investment of 4.95 billion yuan ($740 million),” Xinhua quoted Zhang Yunbao, head of the project’s administration bureau, as saying. Brahmaputra flows into Arunachal Pradesh from the Xigaze region. The blocking of the tributary could have an impact on lower riparian countries like India and Bangladesh, though China had earlier said that it would not make large dams to hold water. The move also comes as India has decided to review the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan to deprive Pakistan of water of all the rivers. However one would not know if China’s move is reaction to India’s water terrorism.
Water issue between India and Pakistan is a serious matter and needs attention of the policy makers, as India is trying to use water as a weapon against Pakistan. Recent developments indicate that India is resorting to devious methods since it has completed some mega projects on River Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India continues building dams on Pakistan’s rivers, and its projects are of a size and scope that many Pakistanis fear could be used to disrupt their hydropower efforts, as well as the timing of the flows on which Pakistani crops rely. Dams and canals, built in order to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation, have dried up stretches of the Indus River. There is a perception that this is being done under well thought-out strategy to render Pakistan’s link-canal system redundant, destroy agriculture of Pakistan, which is its mainstay, and turn Pakistan into a desert.
Using its clout in Afghanistan, India had succeeded in convincing the Karzai regime to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama 2 Hydroelectric Project using 0.5MAF of Pakistan water. It had offered technical assistance for the proposed project, which would have serious repercussions on the water flow in River Indus. One does not have to be an agricultural scientist to know that water is indispensable to agriculture. It is a critical input into agriculture of a country especially when it is situated in an arid or semi-arid zone. Loss of storage capacity due to sedimentation in Tarbela and Mangla Dams is causing serious drop even for existing agricultural production. Food shortages and energy shortfall has already blighted Pakistan with the result that industry in all the provinces has also been adversely impacted that cause loss of production and exports.
Therefore, construction of Bhasha Dam along with other dams is vital not only for our survival but also for enhancing the agricultural output and for increasing overall industrial productivity. In 2006, at the time of ground-breaking ceremony of Diamer-Bhasha dam, the cost was estimated at $6.5 billion, now it is around $15 billion. Successful completion of the Diamer-Bhasha dam would help develop agriculture and also generate cheap energy for industrial development. Bhasha Dam will eliminate flood hazards to a great extent and will reduce sedimentation in Tarbela reservoir, thereby improving the storage capacity and power output at Tarbela. It is unfortunate that during the last four decades none of the governments focused on construction of large dams to meet the growing needs of the increased population. It could be termed criminal negligence, as India has benefited from the procrastination on the part of Pakistan’s governments.
However, Pakistan should also look for the unconventional sources of energy to meet 21st century’s needs. Many countries have benefited from sprinkler and drip irrigation distributed through pressurized plastic pipes. Dasu hydro-electric project will produce more than 4000 mega watt, but the problem of water storage would remain, as it is ‘run of river’ project. Therefore, construction of Bhasha dam should not be delayed in any case. In the past, there have been wars between the countries over religions, usurpation of territories and control of resources including oil. However, in view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, the future wars could be fought over water. Our four provinces are desperately calling for sufficient water to cultivate their lands and are suspicious of each other on the distribution of water. The government must give top priority to construction of dams to address problems of water and energy shortages.