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No to dams, yes to water conservation

Shahid Shah

World Water Day is being observed today around the world. Developed nations are working over to adopt methods of water conservation but we in Pakistan are full with misconceptions.

Is downstream Kotri river flow a waste?

The biggest misconception among the people of Pakistan persists that a lot of water is wasted into the sea below downstream Kotri. Nobody has the data on it. It is based on assumption only.

First of all, river water flow into the sea is not a waste at all. Besides, it is not true that water is flowing into the sea throughout the year. It carries water to the sea only a few months in a year.





Instead sea is moving upwards. Historically, fresh water has flown into the oceans, which pushed them back and beds of stones had formed the hills and mountains.

The fresh water carries small stones from its beginning at the mountain peaks that are crushed with water flow and are left at the banks of river, lucky ones reach at the mouth of the river, which is its meeting point with the sea. Over the thousands and millions of years of natural flow of the river, hills are formed that are called sedimentary rocks. The whole process is called erosion in the language of Geology. Hills of Rohri in Sindh were formed in the sea with fresh water flows millions of years ago.

Unfortunately, the process of hill formation has stopped and sea is moving towards the dry land with a speed of above 84 acres of land per day. Yes, our sea is grabbing that big land daily. One official report of Sindh Revenue Board some 18 years back confirmed that more than two million acre land of Sindh’s three districts Thatta, Badin and Sajawal went under sea intrusion.

However, independent organizations have estimated 3.5 million acres of land have come under the sea intrusion. It included not only agricultural land but also a large number of lakes and ponds. With unavailability of fresh water flows in the sea, we lost 3.5 million acre of land. Someone should calculate its monetary losses. It would be in several trillion rupees. Had there been fresh water flows in the sea, no sea intrusion would have occurred.

Besides, over a million people live downstream Kotri Barrage, whose only source of water is Indus River. No canal reaches there. Regular fresh water flows below Kotri Barrage will not only save lives of a million people but it will help economy, as mangrove forests survive at the seashore which meets with the fresh water. Mangrove forests are home to shrimps and fish. Sustainability of Indus Delta will protect the ecology.





Do dams save water?

Another misconception in Pakistan persists that the large dams will save the water. Big dams are actually big commissions and big kick backs. Nothing else. Currently, water in Tarbela Dam has reached to its dead level and only a few feet of water can be used. No water flow is recorded below Kotri this time. Why this dam was not filled with the ‘abundant’ water? Our so called experts and ignorant leaders say most of the times. In reality, we do not have much water to store.

Climate change has changed the whole monsoon season and catchment areas of rain have shifted. We will either have droughts or floods. If our dams are full and there is abundant rain, where would we save our water? Instead dam water would be released that would result in great floods. We can’t afford them.

Is there any water wastage?

Yes, we are wasting around 40 percent of water in out irrigation systems. It can be full year water supply of 10 cities as big as Karachi. Or we can say, this water can fulfil drinking requirements of the whole nation. We are using a very old irrigation system and there is a huge corruption in irrigation departments. Some people at the start of the canals draw more water while lands at the tail are drying.

How can we preserve water?

We can conserve water through best techniques available for water conservation including drip irrigation and channelization of our existing canals. By ending up corruption from irrigation departments and forcing big landlords to draw the actual allocated water, we can save more water. Small reservoirs can also be useful but big dams are nothing but disasters. They are being discouraged all over the world. Trust me; drip irrigation can cost a very little amount in saving water as compared to any dam in the country.

Needs of all population should be looked ahead, not only some parts of the country.

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  1. Mohaamd Yousuf Soomro

    Dear Sir you’ve written & highlighted as well as elaborated the most important issues of our province.You are successful in making people understand the value of downstream as well as of Mangroves.well done

    • I read your whole article and found such a valuable points you efforted.
      I really appreciated thoughts you explored.