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WATER AND BALOCHISTAN By Siddiq Baluch

Documents: 

Water is life. Its is absolutely true in a place like Balochistan with minimum sources of perennial water available for survival. Scanty rain is the permanent feature of Balochistan. Maximum average rain recorded is 200mm annually barring a small region with extended monsoon rainfall.

In case of drinking water supply, the situation is very bad in Balochistan. Less then 15 percent population has access to bacteria-free water supply in Balochistan. In other words, overwhelming majority of the people had no facility of running water. According to reports, four children die every second in the world due to water related diseases. In case of awareness about the proper use of water with proper conservation, only 15 percent population is observing discipline and the rules in the whole world.

More then 58 percent of its land are not available for cultivation. The province is spread over to an area of around 347,185 square kilometers, around 43 percent of whole of Pakistan. The wasteland comprises of mountainous ranges, vast deserts with ever shifting sand dune in Chagai, Kharan, Iviekran coastal region, Lasbela and Marri - Bugti Tribal Areas. This Trans Indus province has more then 13 major river basins. Almost all of them are seasonal. For the past half a century, seldom efforts were made to tame the floods, build water storage facilities or construct dams, small or medium. Even check dams and delay action damns were not built in required number to meet the basic requirements of the people. However, the people did use their indigenous wisdom building earthen dams to store floods or rains water in all parts of Balochistan.

It was the community that built earthen or Karez (underground water channel linked with open well system) making the life sustainable for centuries. Balochistan is a classic case of rural push as the whole province cannot feed its growing population. The Urban pulls in medium size townships and cities is a latest phenomena of past three decades. There is a constant influx of people to other regions. The constant migration is reported to Muscat, UAE, some of the African countries. But overwhelming majority of the people migrated to Sindh and Punjab for a sustainable life.

In the 1960s, the only dam was built on Hub River. Thanks to the powerful Press of Karachi that forced the Ayub Regime to construct the dam to augment drinking water supply to metropolitan Karachi. The Hub Dam was more than to meet the basic needs of Lasbela District. However, some water was spared through Lasbela Canal for agricultural use in Hub Sub - Division. Off and on, the Chief Ministers of Sindh had to rush to Quetta seeking additional share of water from Hub Dam only to prevent possible water riots in Karachi.

According to the Water Apportionment Accords among the Provinces during the first Government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Balochistan was allotted additional share of water from floods. The Government of Balochistan could not utilize the additional water available merely because of no infrastructure to take the provincial quota from the Indus River system. To this date, other provinces are using Balochistan’s share.

However, the Government under General Pervez Musharraf approved a mega project to build the Kacchi Canal. It will be 500 kilometers long - 300 kilometers in Punjab and 200 kilometers in Balochistan. It will be constructed at a cost of Rs 32.5 billion. Earlier, WAPDA estimated its cost at around 54 billion. But the realignment of the Canal with the Taunsa Barrage in Dera Ghazi Kahn reduced its cost to 32.5 billion. It is the first serious attempt to utilize the share of water for irrigating more 713,000 acres of land in Sibi - Kachhi Plains. It will be part of the Indus River system. Two canals – Kirthar Canal and Pat Feeder - are already linked with the Indus River system at Sukkur and Kashmore. Both the Canals are irrigating around one million acres of land in Naseerabad and Kacchi.

The second important project in the water sector is the Mirani Dam that is being built at Mirani, 30 miles west of Turbat City. It is the point of confluence of Kech River and Nihing River. The dam will cost Rs 5.86 billion. It will irrigate more than 32,200 acres of land besides recharging hundreds of major Karez and wells in upstream. It is a multi-purpose dam also generating electricity. Mirani Dam will be the first water storage facility in Mekran, also covering the future needs of the Gawadar Deep-Water Port. Balochistan has 3.87 Million Acre Feet (MAF) of perennial waters resources of which 3.049 MAF are bring utilized leaving an insignificant amount of water for future use. The Water Apportionment Accords among the Provinces allocated 2.5 MAF Flood water to Balochistan and that is not being utilized since the Award was announced in 1991.

However Balochistan has vast potential for using surface water (flood run off) that is around 10 MAF. Only 3Maf are being used sparing more than 7 MAF of floodwater. In this sector, the Government should do more by building a chain of small and medium size dams irrigating 40 percent of cultivable wasteland. The Government should undertake flood conservation and recharge schemes in all the 13 major river basins of the Province. The Hingole River basin has the greatest potential for exploitation of water resources. Porali Dasht, Rakhshan, Gaj, Zhob, Nari and Mula Rivers follow it. The residents of Pasni coastal town faced acute shortage of water for the past half a century or more. Once a small dam was built on Shadi Kuar (River), its shortage dam is filled with more than 40,000 acre-feet of water in the first rains in its catchment. Same was the case with the Akra Kaur Dam and Saiji Dam near Gawadar. Both the townships are self-sufficient in drinking water facility. Earlier, the local people were consuming brackish water.

It is not out of context that Balochistan is out of the monsoon region. It is not a part of the Indus River system. When there was drought in the Indus region, there were floods and heavy rains in Balochistan. If the water resources, mainly the flood run off, are developed and properly stored, then Balochistan will supplement the national economy in a big way by minimizing the impact of drought in Sindh and Punjab. The same is true otherwise.

Lastly, Balochistan will have to tap its underground water resources in Chagai, Kharan and other backward regions where the Provincial Government did not make significant investment. According to one study, Chagai has enough subsoil water to irrigate more than a million acre of land for ingle crop. The windmill technology can be used in augmenting water resources in Chagai and Kharan, mainly in the Hamun-I- Mashkhel and Nokkundi region. The subsoil water found in Tal Ap ensured the viability of Saindak Copper and Gold Project in Chagai. The experts believed that Tal Ap water reservoir could meet the water needs of Saindak Project for the next two hundred years without a recharge.