A dam-cum-barrage with a storage capacity of about 3 million acre feet (MAF) of water and potential to generate between 2000MW and 6000MW has been proposed near Attock gorge to meet major irrigation and power challenges the country faces.
“The structure will function as a ‘balancing reservoir, water regulating and distributing infrastructure’ that does not require land acquisition and land compensation,” said Engineer Fateh Ullah Khan Gandapur, the nonagenarian former chairman of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) and author of two books. “It will create about 3 MAF storage that will be repeatedly filled since the Indus annual run-off at this site is 93 MAF, of Pakistan’s total water availability of 114 MAF.”
Talking to this correspondent, Mr Gandapur also called for construction of 35MAF Katzarah dam as recommended by an independent committee and a couple of smaller dams on Swat River, in order to ensure food security for future generations.
He said the raised barrage near Attock at the end of Indus River Valley would not cause flooding or water-logging in Peshawar valley and could even irrigate land in Karak and Bannu. “This will also be acceptable to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said the former Irsa chairman who has been a stanch opponent of Kalabagh Dam on technical grounds.
He said the country currently faced about a dozen serious water issues and the delay in resolving them has destroyed national economy and harmed the irrigated agriculture.
The estimated cost of Attock project is $3 billion, one-fourth of $12 billion of Bhasha Dam, and with better outputs.
He identified four issues as most critical — absence of management to control ‘super floods’ that destroyed one-fifth of Pakistan’s most developed areas last year; failure to build hydropower projects that destroyed industry and lowered its export earnings; acute water shortages in the irrigation system adversely affecting agriculture and causing food insecurity in a country with one of the world’s largest irrigated system, rapid silting of mega reservoirs like Mangla, Tarbela and Chashma, causing a storage loss of over 6.6 MAF.
The proposal has been forwarded to the prime minister who has taken it up with relevant government agencies and ministries for detailed technical investigations.
Mr Gandapur said the project was important and should be taken in hand immediately till such time mega projects like Bhasha dam and 35MAF Katzarah dam met the country’s needs.
“It is difficult to conceive how we could be so negligent about our water and power infrastructure on which Pakistan’s future and its people’s welfare depend,” he said, adding that none of the country’s agencies entrusted with protecting the nation’s critical interests in these areas has been able to solve them.
He said work on the project could start immediately and completed in three years. It will have an indefinite lifespan because it will be an unrestricted low-level sluicing structure. About 540 million tons of silt equivalent to about 0.3 MAF annually pass this point from a catchment area of 110,500 square miles.
He said the site was feasible only for a high barrage supported by a 100 feet low dam and a 50-60 feet conventional barrage on the crest of the dam. The reservoir elevation at full supply would come to 850 or 860 feet. The unrestricted low-level sluicing structure would give benefits of a multipurpose mega dam like Bhasha Dam with the additional benefit of involving no cost of land.
He also said the government should start working on a mega dam strongly recommended by an independent technical committee led by A.N.G. Abbasi. This unique and multi- purpose 35MAF Katzarah Dam – six times the capacity of Bhasha Dam – can generate up to 15,000MW electricity, stop silt flow in the Indus from the highly erosive soil of Skardu valley and increase the life of Bhasha Dam from 80 years to 800 years.
Katzarah will function as a replacement storage also to compensate for the loss of 6.6 MAF of gross storage due to rapid silting of Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs. It would also provide additional irrigation facilities to barren areas in the four provinces, he said.
In order to control the flow of the Kabul River, he said, a few dams needed to be built on major tributaries like Swat, Panjkora and Chitral rivers. According to him, there is an excellent dam site on Panjkora tributary with a storage capacity of 8.5 MAF and power generation of about 700 MW that could control 100 per cent floods in Kabul River.
The Guroh Dop Dam on Chitral River can store 4 MAF of floodwater through a tunnel diversion, releasing water in the catchment area near Chutiatan village into the reservoir of the dam.
These steps would overcome shortage of water, make more water available to implement paras 2, 4, 6, 7 and 14(e) of the Water Accord, Mr Gandapur said. He warned that Chenab and Jhelum rivers were fast turning into seasonal rivers because of Indian aggression through controversial dams as pointed out by US Senator John Kerry.