I saw a small review of the book titled, “Undeclared Water War on Pakistan: Tactical and Strategic Defense Mesaures” in a local paper, just a week ago. Something told me this book carries a message, and so the next natural thing was to google it. That done, an order was deftly placed at Fabingo.com, who delivered it in 48 hours. And naturally it was finished in two sittings, filling me up with loads of info about the water situation threatening to plague planet Earth and off course Pakistan. Authored by Professor Dr Iqbal Ali, who happens to be an expert on the subject, the book adopts a no nonsense approach on the subject using lucid language, yet driving the point across to the reader.
Dr Ali starts form the very beginning, explaining why water is essential for an agrarian country like Pakistan. Giving statistics on crop production and showing the water cycle in this region the book gives a comprehensive picture of how the river system along with canals and dams work in Pakistan. Also discussed is the irrigation methods like dams, barrages, inundation and weir irrigation. He traces the history of Pakistan since the Radcliffe award when Pakistan was deprived of the waters of Sutlej river by placing its barrage 100 feet upstream and thus placing control of the water work in India’s hand. Consequently in January 1948 India switched off the water in Dipalpur canal and within four months of independence thousands of acres of wheat crop died due to unavailability of water in the canals. This was followed by India making the Bhakra Dam, quite secretly in a period of seven years. So much was the secrecy maintained then even Muslims of Indian origin were not allowed to go near the area. The author himself a student at that time in India visited the site on a study tour after his Professor portrayed him as a Hindu, Ramachandra to be exact! this was the initial period, 1947 on wards.
Then comes the middle stages from 1952 to 1960 when India willfully stopped the flow of waters in to Pakistan. This resulted in the Indus Basin Treaty where again Pakistan suffered a loss. One must give credit to the author for being straight and to the point where he blames Ghulam Muhammad a bureaucrat who later became Governor General of Pakistan for being an ass and giving in to the Indian demands, so much so that he even didn’t let the competent engineers attend the meeting with the Indians and made them sit outside. Also the role of Ayub Khan has been discussed who after signing the treaty called all the senior engineers and threatened them against speaking on the issue. Also enviable is the role of Indian authorities who laid foundations of so many institutes and is now competent enough to make dams countrywide on a massive scale.
The last stage discusses the 1900’s on wards era. India having rights of the three eastern rivers is running out of surface water in Punjab and consequently is turning her focus on the western rivers. This has resulted in making of a series of dams on the western rivers without consulting Pakistan, 17 to be exact. This will for sure give India the ability to regulate water flows in to Pakistan at will, implying that water can be effectively controlled by India during sowing season or can be released in to Pakistan during floods, as was done in 2014 floods. Also the author highlights the role of Baglihar Dam on the Chenab which was strongly objected to by Pakistan. However, when the World Bank was finally asked and they did intervene it sided with India and supported the idea of “state of the art” gated structure. As a result of this India got emboldened and increased the gate heights from 20 to 60 feet giving it a storage capacity of 164,000 acre feet from the previous 64,000 acre feet. So much for the neutral experts! The author also blames Pakistan for delays in raising the issue with India. Alas! what can one do about it.
The next section discusses the internal politics as a result of foreign intervention specially with reference to the Kalabagh Dam issue which has twice been shelved, once during the Zia period and once during Musharraf regime. It takes years to complete feasibility of a dam, Kalabagh was/is one such dam which Pakistan badly needs. It can be made with local support and financing, in a period of 4 to 5 years as against Bhasha Dam which would require at least 10 years to complete, would require foreign expertise, an NOC from India, and will cost many times in comparison to Kalabagh. Off course making a dam is one issue but making an access road to it is another which is missing in case of Bhasha and the related transmission lines which in case of Bhasha are absent. Both the rad as well as transmission lines in case of Kalabagh are nearby. So in effect we are going in the wrong direction, thanks to an issue which was supported by USAID in 1980’s in the name of freedom to express by the illiterate and self serving people of Sind to be finally taken over by the even more ignorant people of ANP for the ultimate doom of future generations of Pakistan.
The narrative is adequately supported by statistics and graphs, its written in easy to understand language and as I have known after corresponding with the author is being translated in to Urdu for the real readership. It would make lots of sense if this book was translated in to Sindhi and Pashto also for the people to read and make out the good form the bad and decide for themselves instead of letting the myopic politicians to decide for them. Finally the author gives short as well as long term solutions for overcoming the water crisis which in Pakistan is fast approaching. I think this is one book which every Pakistani should read and try to understand, not to spread hate but to make him/herself aware on the issue. And off course the author needs to go on TV to highlight this issue for Pakistan’s sake and for out future generations.