Open Letter to Prime Minister of Pakistan on Kalabagh Dam – by Marvi Memon

Published on Marvi Memon’s website

In the present budget session we have been witness to very unfortunate exchange of allegations on KBD. None of the speeches have been able to respond to the Technical Committee and Parliamentary Committee report objections raised in 2006 by Reports of the Committees of Mr. ANG Abbassi and Senator Nisar Memon. It has been 4 years and the technical arguments made against KBD stand as tall as ever before.

The fact that some people are trying to portray the anti KBD team as anti Pakistan and pro RAW is disgraceful and goes against the spirit of the unity of Pakistan. By getting into a parliamentary fistfight these technical observations cannot be done away with. I am attempting to put forward some of these observations in front of you so that the parliamentarians who are proponents of KBD can exercise brain not rhetoric and realize that 3 provincial assemblies verdict, two committee reports cannot be ignored.

I am not sure who the bigger culprits are, those who misled by lying about the technicalities of KBD or those who without reading the reports believed in the rhetoric and are politically misleading many more now. Well whatever the case is, its time to start realizing the truth about KBD and coming to terms with the fact that if we have to be fair with all of Pakistan then we cant just think of cultivating one area and desertification of the rest. We have to think of water strategies that are equitable.

I am disappointed with your own approach to this technical issue. You say it has been politicized; then you should make it technical. Anyone who has read the technical discourse would not be apologetic and supportive of this project relinquishing it to consensus. It is black and white technically. Please read this letter and take your own decision. Only then will you be able to lead the rest of Pakistan on water strategies equitably. Not everyone in our political set up will have the technical capability to comprehend the issue. Thus please ensure that those who don’t have it do not end up confusing the rest due to their technical short comings. Also those trying to make a dead issue alive in order to create provincial divisions need to be made accountable.

I present hereby some of the technical observations against KBD made by the Technical Committee and Parliamentary Committee Reports of 2006, which no technical expert has been able to counter in last 4 years. It is highly disappointing that even though time was spent in this national effort, just because the results were not to the liking of the then government these reports were not even presented in the last assembly. Infact misleading few page summaries of hundreds of pages worth of reports were distributed to the public in order to portray a wrong impression of the conclusions. What is perhaps more disappointing is that when your government took oath and I asked on the floor of the house to the Speaker of the National Assembly for the actual two reports being laid in totality this was not allowed. This leads me to the conclusion that there is a strong lobby in the federal government in all governments who doesn’t wish for this issue to be technically resolved since they want a divisive sword hanging over all governments.

Based on the arguments below from the two reports, I want you to declare the KBD discourse to be technically inadequate through parliament. And I demand of your government to give an alternative water strategy to save Pakistan minus KBD. Only then will you be doing justice to your manifesto given to you by your leader and mine, Quaid e Azam who believed in equality for all of Pakistan not for some of it.

KBD – some technical issues

The need for reservoirs in Pakistan’s growth has been underlined many times. It is linked with water availability potential in the Western Rivers. The guiding principle should be that every drop of surplus water whenever available should be stored. Surplus being the underlying word which means once systems requirements as per 1991 Accord Allocations have been fulfilled not before. What we are currently witnessing in the system are the many shortages which deny the current canal allocations equitable 1991 shares.

The rulers have to make just decisions on dams based on certain principles of sequencing. Firstly, Capability to trap max quantity of surplus water as and when available. Secondly, Yielding maximum benefits of water storage capacity and power generation at minimum cost. Thirdly, Low capacity – Inflow ratio to reduce silting problem. Fourthly, Readiness for implementation. Fifthly, Nearness to the consumption areas for irrigation water and power. And lastly considering apprehensions about a dam.

It is in the above light that all possible reservoirs need to be evaluated. Here is an evaluation of Kalabagh Dam:

1- Feasibility:

The feasibility under which WAPDA is making the whole of Pakistan believe that KBD is the best gift to Pakistan is too old and thus fairly irrelevant. It is dated 1984-88. Fresh cost estimates and reservoir filling study data is required to re-assess if it is feasible. In anycase even the existing feasibility as per the Chairman Technical Committee is unacceptable since it has 1922 data for filling study which is incorrect since current data is 1976 data. Secondly, this study was made on pre 1991 accord water scenario where estimated irrigation demand is much lower. Thirdly, Projected irrigation requirements indicated did not include systems losses and flow downstream Kotri. Fourthly, the post 1991 accord water requirement below KBD including system losses and the requirement of outflow to sea (10MAF), shows that requirements of the 3 ongoing flood canal schemes have also to be added. Comparison of the data indicates that the estimated irrigation demand considered by KBD consultants during the reservoir filling period of July-Sept is much lower than the actual post Accord requirements. Fifthly, Prices of steel, cement, oil, labour have risen manifold, so have relocation and resettlement costs. Sixthly, Hydropower generation capacity of KBD according to KBD feasibility report is 2400 MW initially to be increased to 3600 MW at a later stage. Cost estimates are based on initial power generation capacity of 2400 MW and thus feasibility does require updation to assess the hydropower generation of 3600 MW.

2- Cost

The cost of KBD as per WAPDA in the feasibility of 1984 was $6 billion. Cost given in the 1988 feasibility was $ 6.1 billion. In 2005 WAPDA claimed the cost would be $5.4 billion and then $6.1 billion. Finally the details given to media in December 2005 were $6.1 billion. WAPDA’s claim is that International prices of power generation have decreased so estimated cost of KBD has reduced. `This when compared to the 1988 feasibility breakup does not seem logical. And clearly now in 2010 the cost must produce a different feasibility and especially in comparison to other dams.

3- Indus annual average flow at KBD

The KBD team has insisted that one of the reasons KBD is more beneficial is because the Indus annual average flow at KBD is 90 MAF, at Tarbela 60 MAF, and at Diamir-Basha 50 MAF. It is an interesting non technical logic given by WAPDA which can fool the non technicals but not the technical people of the country. The response to this by the Technical Committee Chairman is as follows: The average annual inflow of 90 MAF at KBD is not indicative of availability of large amount of surplus water for storage. Average annual inflow at KBD is not even sufficient to meet the requirements of downstream canal systems of 4 provinces on the basis of their Accord allocations. Accord allocation of KP, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan canals on Indus main downstream KBD is 81 MAF. System loss is 13 MAF, Outflow to Sea is 10 MAF. This makes the present water requirements downstream KBD 104 MAF. Add to this the additional water required for KBD storage, ongoing Greater Thal, Rainee, Kachhi and that is another 11 MAF. This makes the total water requirements including storage and flood canals 115 MAF. The 90 MAF would not suffice at KBD.

The second issue with the 90MAF at KBD is as follows: KBD capacity is 6.1 MAF whereas average annual average river flow at KBD is 90 MAF. Such large quantity is not needed to fill the dam and on the contrary this high river inflow is disadvantageous because KBD will have to cater for much higher silt load as well as it will have to be provided with higher spillways capacity. Capacity inflow ratio of KBD is 15 (90 divided by 6). Thus the dam has to regulate and cater for 15 times the quantity of water to be stored with consequent problems of higher silt and also requirement of higher spillways capacity. As far as the silting problem at KBD is concerned the feasibility study of 1988 states that the high sediment load carried by the Indus at KBD has an important bearing on the design of KBD and on the operating rules for the reservoir. If a high proportion of the sediment is trapped the storage volume will rapidly reduce with the loss of irrigation benefits derived from the storage. Such sedimentation could eventually also cause unacceptable backwater effects. According to consultant’s report the sediment inflow at KBD could eventually reach 0.25 MAF per annum. Such high silt load will fill up KBD in 25 years, thus sluicing KBD for 50 days from June 1-20 July for flushing of silt has been recommended. As such the availability of additional water from Kabul River at KBD does not in anyway help to supplement the water required for KBD storage. On contrary additional silt brought by Kabul River will aggravate sedimentation problems. Nor will the construction of KBD strengthen the cause of Pakistan for claiming additional water from Afghanistan, because the Kabul River water is already committed for existing uses on Kabul main as well as in the Indus canal system downstream which should be the basis for our legitimate claim on Kabul River waters.

4- Live storage

WAPDA’s position on this issue is that Live storage will be 6.1 MAF and Gross Storage will be 7.9 MAF. Retention Level will be 915 feet, Crest Elevation will be 940 ft, Maximum Height will be 260 ft, Length will be 11,000 feet.

A dam of 6 MAF capacity is likely to be filled for 10 years out of 28 years and it will provide 2.1 MAF per year as against full capacity of 6 MAF. The share of provinces from future storages must be determined on the basis of expected water availability of 2 MAF per year and not on the basis of full capacity of 6 MAF. The regulation and operational criteria for future reservoirs should also be framed accordingly.

Additionally on the same subject of storage the Original storage height of KBD was 925 ft. Then on the complaints of KP it was reduced to 915 ft. But the level required for operation of spillways is 934 ft. Thus the reduction made for KP is one big eyewash! Flood will not occur at normal discharge. Flood will occur at the higher discharges when spillways are operating. Spillway will function at 934 ft as per feasibility. The top level of the dam has been fixed at 940 ft in anycase. Technically in order to cater for Nowshera not flooding and level being 915ft, the design parameters have to be re-done which WAPDA clearly doesn’t want to do. Flooding will be when there are high flows obviously, at which point 934 ft will be maintained which will flood Nowshera. When WAPDA was asked this question in the Technical Committee it did not respond. This is a major issue which clearly has not been resolved.

5- Hydropower generation

The hydropower potential of KBD was given as 2400 MW initially and then enhanced to 3600 MW. When WAPDA was asked when this would be enhanced the Technical Committee was not given a timeframe. The cost estimates given were on 2400 MW and thus the 3600 MW power generation have not been explained adequately. The second claim of the 7 Members of the Technical Committee and WAPDA is that KBD will help improve Tarbela’s generation capacity by 30%. This has been proved as being incorrect because it will actually be 3% and not 30% due to the fact that generation at KBD will be 11,413 Gwh and that at Tarbela will be 336 GWh as per a WAPDA document of October 1988. Moreover the Feasibility of KBD provides for additional thermal power generation to cater for shortfall during low flow periods. In any hydel project in certain years the reservoir might not be filled at all. Hydel projects by their very nature are highly variable supply, thus additional thermal generation at such sites becomes a must. For the present reservoirs we don’t have additional thermal generation; however for KBD it is being proposed. This must be ensured for future reservoirs so that additional load shedding in the system is avoided.

As per some queries posed to WAPDA by the Parliamentary Committee it appears that the initial power generation capacity of KBD was designed at 2400 MW with an ultimate capacity of 3600 MW. There was some doubt whether these figures were valid for the revised design of 10 feet lowering even though WAPDA has assured non conclusively that lowering will not effect increased hydropower generation. Infact some quarters have indicated that there will be a reduced generation of 1920 MW instead of 2400 MW, likely to be further reduced to 1440 MW due to power generation gap during three months of emptying and filling of reservoir. As the initial designed storage of 9.5 MAF and retention level of 925 ft, the power generation potential was 2400 MW. At the reduction retention level of 915 ft and storage of 6.1 MAF, the power generation potential will be reduced to 1920 MW. For the purpose of destilting through mid level sluicing, reservoir will be emptied by end May and refilled to maximum conservation level with the gap of about four months. During this period power generation will be further reduced to minimum of 440 MW. To supply the loss of hydropower, two turbines of 500 MW each for thermal power generation are provided in the project.

To over come this gap WAPDA has denied an installation of a 1000 MW thermal plant. However in the same sentence WAPDA admits that power generation will be catered through the integrated operation of national Hydel thermal generation. It is not clear what is meant by the confusion caused by WAPDA’s statements.

6- KBD Right and Left Bank Canals

WAPDA’s position on this is that there is no proposal to include left bank canal or right bank canal in KBD project. The project design does not include any provision for diverting water from reservoir using high level outlets. A telemetric system to monitor discharge in various canals commands, on real time basis under the auspices of IRSA has been discussed since many years. This system has been misused and declared faulty to allow theft of water. It is an issue that no government has been able to fix since they are all involved as a ruling elite in the theft.

The position of the Chairman of Technical Committee is as follows: WAPDA has stated that there is no proposal to include right and left bank canals in KBD. The 7 Members however strongly advocated the construction of right bank and left bank canals but they have not mentioned anything about the basis of justification and planning and design of canals nor have they indicated the main features of these canals. The 7 members have not mentioned anything about the area to be irrigated by Left Bank canal, however as per details given according to the 1988 report, 11.38 MM acres will be served and the total water requirement of these canals is 8 MAF as against the design live storage capacity of 6.1 MAF. KBD Left Bank canal includes provisions for KBD Rasul Link of which no details have been given and it has not been explained on what basis it is needed. No such link is justified because the 2 Indus links CJ TP already exist. Indus main cannot have any further additional burden of transfer of water into tributary areas. KBD-Rasul Link will be further burden on main Indus. KBD Left Right are not justifiable. Look at how CJ link is being attempted to being misused right now.

KP can get more than its share of Water Accord not from KBD as suggested by 7 members of the Technical Committee but by existing dams like Gomal. The KBD Right Bank and Left Bank Canals are neither feasible nor justifiable. The design of 1984 provides for a huge capacity of over 21000 cusecs and water requirements of 8 MAF which are much more than the capacity of the dam. Out of this 4 MAF are required during Rabi season from the stored water which is about 66% of the capacity of the dam. Though WAPDA has stated that there is no proposal to include these canals in the project, still there are justifiable apprehensions caused by this idea. The proposal for these canals should therefore be finally dropped. Infact other than the Technical Committee Chairman’s apprehensions the government in end 2005 was toying with the same idea. That KBD without canals would not satisfy Punjab or KP and thus for their sake (and not for the federation’s water management needs) KBD with rather than without the canals was critical. Reportedly in October 2006 KP did not object to the controversial Kalabagh Dam project when it recently came up for consideration by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), and this has greatly surprised officials representing Sindh at the meeting. One of the reasons could be the commitment by the highest leadership at the time that canals for KP usage would be given.

In response to the points made by 7 members that KBD is the only site to irrigate the areas of KP by gravitational flow, following arguments are pertinent: shares of provinces in the balance river supplies (including flood supplies and future storages) have been determined. The share of each province can be utilized by them in any manner they deem appropriate, i.e by increasing the capacities of existing canals converting non perennial canals into perennial by extension of the command area of these canals or by constructing new canals. It is for the provinces to see that they select more suitable areas for new canals which can be cultivated by flow irrigation. However, neither it has been indicated in the Accord nor it is practicable to assure these allocated supplies by flow irrigation. The idea of getting flow supplies directly from a dam is unreasonable since it will give rise to similar demands for all future dams which will be impossible to meet. Infact Gomal Zam Tank Zam Kurram Tangi Munda will all get KP more water than their share in KBD. KP need not get its share of storage water from each dam built on Indus main but it will be more realistic that KP may get its allocated share of storage water from dams to be built in the province on the tributaries of Indus River.

The KBD Consultants have stated that the Right Bank Canal caters for irrigation supplies for cultivable command area of 850,710 acres. About 65% of the area would be served by gravity and 35% area by pumped supply. Maximum monthly withdrawal capacity would be 8300 cusecs. Right bank canal works would include 15.5 miles of 37.5 ft diameter tunnel and 34 miles of canal. Left Bank Canal caters for irrigation supplies for cultivable Command Area of 287,310 acres. It will involve pumping of over 8000 cusecs through 63.6 feet head. Maximum monthly withdrawal capacity is 13,100 cusecs. Left bank canal would include twin 33 ft diameter tunnels each 8.5 miles long and a link canal to the River Jhelum. Total annual volume of withdrawal of both canals would amount to 8 MAF almost equal share in Kharif and Rabi seasons. Tunnels would be extremely costly to build and would have to pass through the zones where the geological conditions are very unfavourable. Use of the outlets would incur a substantial energy penalty loss of over 1000 GWh per year, which is about 10% of the generation capacity of KBD. The Consultants state that it will be difficult to construct the tunnels which would be vulnerable to future tectonic disturbance and that the development is not feasible by normally accepted standards.

Interestingly in September 2006, Yuki Tanabe, a representative of the Japan Centre for Sustainable Society, has termed the proposed Kalabagh dam project, Left Bank Outfall Drain and Right Bank Outfall Drain disastrous for people, agriculture and environment.

7- Water Accord Allocations

The next issue is conceptually important because it relates to what will be done with storage potential at KBD. The 7 Members of the Technical Committee state that Full Water Accord Allocations cannot be met during shortage periods without construction of new reservoirs. The technical members failed to prove extra water which could go downstream. The Chairman of the Technical Committee states that the average shortfall of meeting Water Accord Allocations is about 12 MAF. The future reservoirs need to cater for this shortfall before any water can be provided to provinces for development of new projects. Thus the first dam to be constructed will have to be ear marked entirely for providing water for meeting shortfall in Accord Allocations. This principle has not been acknowledged and thus water allocations which show excess of 35 MAF flowing downstream Kotri is not only inaccurate but rubbing salt in lower riparian wounds.

8- Submerging of Nowshera

One of the main issues with KBD has been the apprehension of KP that Nowshera will be flooded. The argument given by KP is as follows: There is a Possibility of flooding of Nowshera Town and Peshawar Valley in case of unprecedented flood. Fertile cultivated land would be submerged. Historic flooding of Peshawar Valley including Nowshera town would be aggravated in the event of recurrence of 1929 record flood. Drainage of surrounding area of Mardan, Pabbi and Swabi plains would be adversely affected by the reservoir thus creating waterlogging and salinity. Operation of Mardan SCARP would be adversely affected.

The Parliamentary Committee states that the reply given by WAPDA regarding the sub-surface drainage of Peshawar Valley draining towards the only outlet at Attock Gorge is not considered satisfactory and appears to be evasive. The map shows that the entire drainage of Peshawar valley joins Kabul river its both banks and is not confined to its right bank only as indicated by WAPDA. The reply “there is no question of sub-surface drainage of Peshawar Valley being blocked by KBD” is considered unsatisfactory since the sub surface drainage drains towards Attock and may be blocked by KBD reservoir up to Rs 915ft. WAPDA needs to give definitive reply to this query. The reply given after meeting of June 14 was to grow more rice and sink tube wells, wherever, sub soil water heads up and reappears at surface. This is clearly no solution!

The Chairman Technical Committee’s position is that the Computer study did not include the effect of Tarbela reservoir which is now factually providing relief by attenuating flood peaks. WAPDA has not mentioned that as per studies carried out that there will be no flood at Nowshera at the conservation level of 915 ft at KBD site. KBD consultants state that the effect of flood level of long term deposits has not been evaluated. Nowshera will definitely become more difficult to protect from flooding and low level sluicing will prolong

effectiveness of flood protection. Conservation level of KBD is 915 ft, whilst spillways will operate at level of 934 ft. WAPDA has not responded to the question that what will be the consequential effect of this level at Nowshera during floods when spillway is operating. In the Consultant’s report of 1984 it has been mentioned that for every 2.5 ft of increase at KBD there will be 1 ft corresponding rise at flood level at Nowshera. Thus there will be 8 ft rise in the level at Nowshera during period when spillway at KBD operates at level of 934 ft. It is expected that flood effect at Nowshera will mostly occur in flood season when spillways are operating rather than normal flow period of the river when storage level is 915 ft or less. Though dykes were promised in 1984 report, now there will be none as conservation level has been decreased to 915 ft. Even by WAPDA’s estimates we require dykes of atleast 15 ft.

Thus as is clear from the technical analysis, the Nowshera issue is far from resolved.

9- Resettlement

Resettlement which is a normal phenomena when any dam is to be built. As per WAPDA based on 1999 estimate, total population to be relocated is 120,320 of which 78,170 shall be from Punjab and 42,150 from KP. Compensation shall be paid to all the affectees for their properties like land, trees, buildings and other structures at market price in compliance with the Land Acquisition Act. The main response to WAPDA from KP has been that the Resettlement plan needs to include financials at current rates which it doesn’t. Once this is done the cost of KBD will not be $ 6.1 billion. This needs to be looked into. The resettlement of all affected areas of Sindh which will suffer massive desertification due to shortage of water from main Indus is a cost no one can technically answer.

10- Sluicing

On sluicing, experts advising the Parliamentary Committee had certain reservations: The debate between low-level sluicing and mid-level sluicing as explained by the different feasibilities and experts was inconclusive. There were examples of high level sluicing given which failed due to rapid silting. Silt evacuation depended on slope, quantity of flow, and low level unrestricted sluicing which would be disruptive for power generation. In case of KBD, the bed slope of the Indus at dam site will be raised from 680 ft to the level of restricted sluicing at 825 ft this means that Indus River bed will be aggravated on the upstream by about 145ft. This will flatten the present slope with the result that velocity flow or stream power will be reduced and will not be able to evacuate silt deposited upstream of Attock Gorge in wide area with flat slope and that area has been declared most sensitive to silting by KBD Consultants in project report. The second hydraulic aspect that effects sediment evacuation is the quantity of discharge. In case of KBD, the annual flow at Attock is 89-90 MAF.

With the construction of Ghazi Barotha Hydropower Project 6,500 cusecs (43 MAF) is diverted into the power channel. Hence there would be almost 50 MAF KBD reservoir component at Attock. The next hydraulic factor is that the flood water duration is for about 100 days whereas sluicing is restricting to 50 days (June 1 to July 20). This will also effect velocity flow and silt evacuating capability. It is stated the sluicing will be possible from low level outlets near the bottom of the dam. The fact is that sluicing will be done at RL 825. Besides this, few orifices are provided at PL 785” while bed level is 680. WAPDA was asked to respond as to how sluicing would be technically possible near the bottom of the dam.

WAPDA’s response was that with the existing design the reservoir could be drawn down below E1 825 by using convertible conduits 11 & 12. This could help in occasional scouring of deposits just upstream of the dam, should such flexibility be required. However occasional sluicing at levels lower than E1 825 is unlikely to significantly influence the overall sedimentation pattern in the reservoir. Comparison of the three modes showed that low level sluicing was very uneconomic and did not give a significant advantages in retaining reservoir live storage compared with he nominal sluicing. After intensive studies the KBD consultants adopted mid level sluicing being the most optimum option and having least negative effect on the feasibility of KBD. On the same subject, WAPDA’s own consultants create a doubt about whether it would be worthwhile even installing power facilities at all when they would be out of operation for more than a quarter of a year.

Based on the above and based on a more serious issue of water availability data being significantly misrepresented by many (which will also be detailed for you soon technically), and which on ground is evident from the current desertification of lower riparian and Indus delta, its time to shelve KBD permanently and divert energy into other sources of water and energy for Pakistan.

One of these many irrigation projects is Water canal lining project which needs to be accelerated. The National Program for Improvement of Watercourses has saved two large dams full of water and yet you have not executed their regularization in 3 provinces of Pakistan.

Pakistan urgently needs a real water conservation, energy, and irrigation strategy. KBD is a lost technical cause. I hope you will have the courage to see that.


MNA Marvi Memon

Cc: National Assembly Speaker

Speaker of Sindh Assembly

Speaker of Punjab Assembly

Speaker of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa Assembly

Speaker of Balochistan Assembly

Speaker of Gilgit Baltistan Assembly

Speaker of AJK Assembly

Senate Chairman

PML President