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Small dams key to avert water crisis

Experts at a seminar on Monday warned of severe water crisis in Rawalpindi in the near future if small dams on Soan and Ling rivers are not built and leakages, wasting 50 per cent of water, not plugged. The seminar on 'Rawalpindi Water Vision 2030' was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). The experts asked the government to immediately start desilting of Khanpur dam's water channel. They said since the channel had not been cleaned for years the filtration plant at the dam was unable to provide water to the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad as per its maximum capacity.

At present only 23 million gallon water per day (MGD) could be provided to both the cities against the dam's capacity of 51mgd. Director-general, Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), Brig (retired) Pervez Mehmood Khan, who had to speak at the seminar, but he did not turn up.

Isa Daudpota, an environmentalist, said the proposed supply of water to the federal capital and Rawalpindi from Jehlum and Indus rivers was no practical solution to a water crisis. He said the people were given the impression that there was little water in Khanpur dam which was wrong. The dam's spillways had been opened for 18 times during last year alone, which showed that water availability was not a problem but how to suck the water up from 400 meters. Neither Punjab nor the NWFP cleaned the channel of Khanpur dam, which had made the filtration plant inefficient.

Arshad Hassan of SDPI said at present Rawalpindi had a population of 1.8million and with the present growth rate it would touch 4 million by 2030. Now the city required more than 36mgd water, however, by 2030 the water requirement would also increase.

Ironically, he said, two small dams could be easily built in Rawalpindi. Chirah dam could be built on Soan river and Daducha dam on river Ling. Both the dams, he said, were unavoidable, if the government wanted to avert the long-predicted water crisis in Rawalpindi.

He said installation of water meters could also help save the water from being wasted. At present, he said the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa), Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) and Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) charged fixed rates.

The seminar also discussed water pollution in Rawal Lake and the provision of unsafe drinking water to the citizens of Rawalpindi. Participants said water charges should not be increased and instead the water agencies must improve the quality of potable water aimed at checking water-borne diseases that were now common in Rawalpindi.