Worth a dam

Pakistan can only protect itself from floods and droughts by building more water reservoirs

Worth a dam
After 240 people dead and thousands of acres of crops destroyed in one of Pakistan’s most devastating floods, the need for building new dams is being stressed once again. It remains to be seen if the outcome will be any different from the floods of the past.

Heavy monsoon rains in the Indian and Pakistani administered Kashmir regions and parts of Pakistan triggered the most destructive floods in Pakistan in 22 years. At least 386 people have been reported hurt in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. The floods destroyed or damaged nearly 34,000 houses while affecting over 2 million people. About 1.7 million acres of farmland are submerged, with rice, maize and cotton crops destroyed. The catastrophic floods have subsided in the Punjab province and now entering Sindh, where a state of emergency has been declared in eight districts.

Despite several destructive floods in the past, Pakistan has not been able to take remedial actions and may see more such floods in the years to come. What Pakistan needs to do is to reassess its policies for handling such natural disasters. The devastation of the floods could have been averted if the country had invested more in dams.

“Let us call a spade a spade and admit that we have failed to cope with such natural disasters and need to enhance our level of preparedness,” an expert said.

[quote]A proposed 'Chiniot Dam' on the River Chenab will have a barrage capacity of 1 million cusecs and a storage capacity of 1.29 million acre feet[/quote]

The government has been given the proposal for a ‘Chiniot Dam’ on the River Chenab that would have a barrage capacity of 1 million cusecs and a storage capacity of 1.29 million acre feet. Water experts say dams cannot be built on a plain, and therefore, Chiniot is the only natural site on Chenab River that allows a dam. During the current floods, one million acre feet of water each were diverted to Mangla and Tarbela dams.

“There is a proposed plan to build a dam at River Chenab at Chiniot but there has been no response from the government so far,” said WAPDA ex-Chairman Syed Raghib Abbas Shah. Climate change experts believe the massive floods are a consequence of deforestation, encroachment on river banks, and lack of dams.

Arshad H Abbasi, a water and energy expert at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute – an Islamabad-based think-tank – said some people attribute the floods to climate change, but that is incorrect. “It is because of deforestation, lack of preparedness and lack of policy to build new dams and reservoirs.”

Dams help produce electricity, avoid pollution, and help address effects of climate change, such as floods and droughts. Pakistan’s Chenab River has seen four major floods in the country’s history, in 1973, 1976, 1992 and 2014.

“It is not an unusual phenomenon for Pakistan. Dams would not only avert flooding in the future but would also store water and produce electricity, Mr Abbasi said. “Any person who has an iota of sincerity for Pakistan will go for that dam.”

This year, monsoon rains came in September, almost a month after they are expected. According to environmental experts, extreme weather conditions are more unpredictable now and the only solution to such situations is updating the early warning system to be able to timely warn the people living near rivers and streams, and building new dams. We have this ED Trial Pack

After passing through Punjab, the floodwater is now moving towards Sindh. According to the Flood Forecasting Division, the River Indus at Guddu and Sukkur Barrages may attain medium to high flood discharge, ranging between 400,000 cusecs and 500,000 cusecs by Tuesday or Wednesday. Earlier, it was estimated to be between 700,000 and 750,000 cusecs, but a large volume of floodwater was dispersed after authorities breached protective dykes at various sites in Punjab.

[quote]Insiders say Mehsud militants led by Sajna persuaded Muawiya to lay down arms and abandon violence in Pakistan [/quote]

The water is receding, but there is still a real risk of waterborne diseases, such as diarrhoea and malaria. Stagnant water and the lack of access to clean drinking water, shortage of food and insufficient health facilities lead to outbreak of such diseases. The damage caused by the floods will also have a long-lasting impact on agriculture in Pakistan. The government needs to assess the damages and start rehabilitating those affected by the floods.