Kalabagh Dam: A Solution For Energy Crisis

“If humanity continues using resources at its current rates, we would need three planets by 2050” (“Report Warns” 1). Following the period of independence, the energy crisis is one of the severe problems with Pakistan. The question of the development of energy resources has been under considerable debate, and commencement of several projects have held. One of those was the Kalabagh dam, which has proved to be the bone of contention. The concept for the dam was first put forward in 1953 as a water storage plant, but after 1973 its design was changed to a big multipurpose dam.

Kalabagh dam proposed site is located in Mianwali on the Indus River about 120 miles below Tarbela Dam and sixteen miles upstream from the Jinnah Barrage on the outskirts of Khyber Pakhtun Khuwan (KPK) province. In 2004, General Pervaiz Musharaf under his governance proposed its construction. But in 2008 because of political and provincial biases, the project was revoked (Feyyaz 15). Although, there has been the intense political conflict between provinces on it, however, the Kalabagh Dam’s construction is necessary to alleviate energy crisis, expand water reservoirs for agriculture, and control floods.

The site for Kalabagh Dam   Blogspot

Kalabagh Dam would solve the electricity debacle prevailing in the country by ample contribution to power generation. The power breakouts “Load Shedding” were started in 1970 on the temporary basis during low electricity generation and hours of peak electricity demand but these momentary power outages became an operating strategy for Water and Power Development Agency (WAPDA) for the rest of years. These power blackouts happened due to the dependence of electricity generation mainly on two dams Mangla and Tarbela. In May 2013, these power cuts became dangerous as stated: “In any given amount of time, 70% of Pakistan was without electricity”. In 2011-12 and 2012-13, power blackouts harshly affected GDP growth of Pakistan by 2%.

Thermal power (by burning coal, fuel and oil) aggregates about 68.12% of Pakistan’s energy production (Fair 181-82). Pakistan’s imports of oil for electricity generation prove a burden on the economy. Pakistan’s power consumption is 80 Billion (KWh), out of which 400 million (Kwh) is imported (“The World Factbook” 10). Kalabagh being a hydro energy power plant will produce 3600 MW of cheap electricity to cater to the needs of the country (Feyyaz 16). Former KPK Prime Minister Shamsul Mulk remarked Kalabagh Dam would guarantee sufficient and cheap electricity (“Construction of Dam Inevitable” 2). Therefore, for streamline flow of the economy, Kalabagh Dam, a cheaper, better, economically and environmentally beneficial source of electricity, should be built.

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Kalabagh Dam will substantially elevate water resources because of more storage capacity, to benefit agricultural system. According to World Wildlife (WWF) report,”Pakistan is one of the ten most water scarce countries.” In 1960, after the Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan built two massive dams Tarbela and Mangla and several barrages for the irrigation prospects. These infrastructures have proved successful since last five decades (Kamal 6). However, the situation of these existing water depositories is worsening rapidly due to excessive sedimentation and country is the losing 5.8 MAF or thirty-four percent of storage capability by the year 2010 (“WAPDA Report 2012-2013” 19). Pakistan’s per capita water storage capacity is 150 metric cube which is relatively lower than America, China, and India (Qureshi). Despite being an agricultural country, Pakistan has insufficient water availability as compared to its requirements.

Qureshi says in his article “It is unfortunate that, even after completion of Terbela Dam 30 years ago, no decision could be taken on the construction of new storage capacity” (Qureshi 4). To progress, Pakistan needs efficient water reservoirs, and the only feasible dam that can be operated is the Kalabagh Dam. Kalabagh Dam can store up to 3.6 Million Acre-Feet (MAF) water and can supply 12.8 MAF water to Mianwali, Khushab, D.I Khan and Jhelum district for irrigation (Feyyaz 16). So, Kalabagh dam should be built on a priority basis as it can cater the energy requirements of the country in a cheap, sustainable and environmentally beneficial manner.

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On account of dysfunctional water reserves, Kalabagh will be critical to flood prevention because of its storage capability.  Flood crisis have affected human lives, agriculture, and infrastructure. In the duration of 15 years, Pakistan witnessed about six large flows, of which 2010 was worst in the history of Pakistan’s people and economy. The flood affected around twenty million inhabitants in seventy-eight districts killed eighteen hundred, damaged about two million homes (Warraich 2). These floods changed the dynamics of Pakistan’s economy. According to Rajput, “If any of three dams on the Indus at Bhasha, Kalabagh, and Akhori were built, there would be no problem in flood years”(“Removal of Dam Building Stressed” 1).

The agricultural sector of Pakistan was severely affected because it happened during ‘Kharif’ (one of the two planting seasons beginning from April-June and harvesting in October-December season) and destroyed major crops including rice and cotton (Looney). The two chief reasons behind these tragedies are climate change and monsoon rains. Pervaiz Amir of Pakistan Water Partnership said, “The frequency of monsoon rains has decreased, but their intensity has increased.”(Masood 3) The only way to confront these calamities and gain prosperity is to utilize natural resources efficiently. In these circumstances, there is an urgent need of the reservoirs which can store and control the excess amount of water. Kalabagh can store 6.7 MAF for flood control. It will save on average, 26 MAF of water per year for the irrigation purposes. (Feyyaz 16) So, Kalabagh Dam should be built for the prosperity and development of Pakistan and its people.

The site plan for Kalabagh on map still remains a plan! Indus Herald

The proposal of Kalabagh Dam project was for the prosperity of Pakistan, but the venture brought unexpected opposition. The critics argue that construction of the dam, on the expense of two provinces Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh is not acceptable. The project proved trivial due to politicization. The dispute over allocation of resources has been common between provinces since creation. The opponents argue that the KPK and Sindh will suffer water deprivation, ecosystem degradation, and social displacement. Also, because of the centralized legacy of Punjab cannot be trusted (Feyyaz 17). In the proposed report, it was clearly intended that it Kalabagh is the dam of the nation. Shams-ul-Mulk says because of the negligence of government on Kalabagh Dam; the country is suffering an annual loss of Rs 132 billion which could be saved by initiating construction of the dam.

He further declared “there is no threat to Nowshera city as it is 150 feet above the water level”. Further speaking, the decision makers have nothing to lose, it is the masses that suffer the calamity. And the same is happening that people have no access to electricity and water supply, but bureaucrats are enjoying these perks all the time. He also added that report reserved fixed amount of water share to KPK and Sindh as several channels will be shoveled from the Indus River. Also, it will help to remove poverty from KPK because it will irrigate 800,000 acres of arable land located 100-150 feet above the Indus river level (Aslam 2).

Will the people of area allow to construct the Kalabagh Dam?

In the light of above discussion, opposition’s claims bear negligible weight when compared to the positive aspects of Kalabagh Dam. Firstly, it can provide sufficient and cheap electricity to the nation. Secondly, the number of water reservoirs for irrigation will increase. Third, the chances of disastrous floods in Pakistan would be mitigated. It will directly help the economy and eradicate poverty from Pakistan. There are ample reasons for the Kalabagh Dam project to be initiated because the whole country is going to avail advantages. Thus, the government should attempt to attain a consensus of all provinces.

Works Cited

Aslam, Syed M. “THE ISSUE OF KALABAGH DAM?” THE ISSUE OF KALABAGH DAM? 16 Oct. 2003. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. <http://www.pakistaneconomist.com/issue2003/issue40/i&e3.php>.

“Construction of Kalabagh Dam Seen as Inevitable.” Dawn.com. DAWN, 22 May 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.


Fair, C. Christine, and Watson, Sarah J., eds. ‘Pakistan’s Enduring Challenges.’ Philadelphia, US: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. Print. 17 March 2017.

Kamal, Simi, Pervaiz Amir, Mohtadullah, Khalid. ‘Development of Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) for the Indus Basin: Challenges and Opportunities,’ 2013. Wwfpak.org. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.


Looney, Robert. “Economic Impacts of The Floods In Pakistan.” Contemporary South Asia, vol 20, no. 2, 2012, pp. 225-241. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 17 March 2017.   <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2012.670203>

Masood, Salman. “Starved for Energy, Pakistan Braces for a Water Crisis.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/world/asia/pakistan-braces-for-major-water-shortages.html?_r=0>.

Featured Image Credits: Stock Snap

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