Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Floods and Dams:the right time for discourse and debate

While people in Sindh ,particularly,would be affected by the floods,it would be the right time to talk about the dams.The role dams can play in averting the floods by storing excess water and that dams donot gulp the water away or consume it.Dams merely store excess water to be used when there is less water.

A very extensive study done by the UN has predicted that in the wake of climate change problem and the Green House Gases syndrome,there would be more frequent and intense floods to be followed by droughts.Our water storage capacity is already very low , and not able to meet the current demand of storage and consumption.What would happen , if we are not able to build sufficient storage dams in time.God has already helped us by giving us brains ,knowledge and resources.We cannot expect God to help us out then somehow.The laws of nature fixed by him donot change.Hence no room for delay,procrastination,destructive debate and inaction.

There are always side-effects of every remedy.There are no options other than dams.Fortunately Bhasha dam is not being opposed,atleast for the time being, by the nationalist circles in Sindh.I keep my fingers crossed.Most of the arguments posed against Kalabagh dam, apply to Bhasha dam and others as well.Perhaps the opposition to dams by the nationalist is no more.And this should be a cause of some celeberation.Still,while the floods devastate, the issue ought to be debated in electronic media to flush away the residual opposition.

There is some perennial problem and lack of communication and confidence between Sindh and Punjab ,on classical lines of upper and lower riparians.However the technology has come up to our rescue.Gone are the days when lower riparian user may be deceived or well informed of the water uses and withdrawals of the upper riparians.One can literally monitor the river and canal flows throughout the river basin on the internet.The technology is cheap and affordable It is not rocket science.Even off the shelf hardware and software is available to provide transparent data.
Admittedly some system is there.Apparently it is not sufficiently spread out to provide complete data.Any way the system can be and should be upgraded.The system can and should be even extended to the relevant rivers in India to resolve water disputes with India.So that another Kashmir like frenzy and division is not created among the two countries.Already ther are enough problems.We need not add to the list of intractable problems.

There is 1993 water accord already.No accord is sacrosanct and can be dispensed with.However consensus is often difficult to come by on new accords and political agreements.There is a merit in sticking to the accord or suitably modify it with consensus.It is the PPP government which is in a better political position to deal and resolve the issue on a long term institutional basis,tying in all loose ends.

Pakistan is perennially short of water.Population pressure is going to make water shortage even more critical and unbearable.Water is too precious to be wasted and to be allowed to be wasted in floods and to the ocean.Thatta inundation by the sea water due to low water flows can be stopped by other means.Netherlands and others have developed technologies to retain sea water influx.It is said that half of Netherlands would have been under water had they not applied those technologies.Pushing water away by water is too antiquated and wasteful.

One last word of caution.Kalabagh dam is some how a contentious issue.Let us forget about the Kalabagh dam for the time being lest it generates destuctive debate on other vital dam projects.
Let the consensus sustain on dams like Bhasha.Others would ultimately come along.

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