The Kalabagh dam project, extensively studied between 1952 and 1987, is likely to offer sustainable benefits, like water reservoir capacity of five million-acre feet (MAF), production of 3,600MW hydropower as well as flood mitigation.
Unfortunately, inter-provincial water politics has put the project on hold, depriving the country of the dam’s benefits. The water politics continues to ignore that sediment is depleting the reservoir at Tarbela, and, once it becomes a run-of-river project, Bhasha dam alone would not replace more than 50 per cent of the depleted storage capacity.
At that time, our water storage capacity would be far less than what it was in 1976 when Tarbela was completed. With a 320 per cent population increase between 1976 and 2023, and, without Kalabagh dam, Pakistan is already struggling to meet food demand by pumping large quantities of irrigation water from underground aquifers, which will eventually become unaffordable due to falling groundwater levels and high energy costs.
It is worth pointing out that besides its many benefits, Kalabagh dam project has a significant potential for pumped hydropower storage (PHS), offering a cost-effective alternative to storage batteries required for integrating solar and wind power plants with the national grid.
Muhammad Akram Khan