Dams Dams Dams

Posted April 8, 2006 to Pakistan category.

I've been reading about dams for years now, but at the end of all that reading I still don't know much about the whole issue yet. Practically all I've read in the newspapers is short on facts and big on the author's 'feelings'. Many of the facts thrown about are just plain wrong. The only certain thing I've gathered about dams so far is that many of the journalists and almost all the politicians here don't know a damn thing about dams, economics, mathematics or logic. Consequently, those further down the food chain who read about dams from these idiots end up knowing even less. i.e the author

Much has been written about big dams - our politicians and dictators seem to have read none of it. This is not rocket science, but science nonetheless. The first man made dam, Sadd el-Kafara, was built over 4000 years ago in Egypt - and turned out to be a spectacular failure, being washed away by the first rains soon after completion.

in keeping with the fine tradition of all the articles I've read, there are no facts in this post. no facts are better than wrong facts. The whole dam situation is like a rolling slimeball, picking up all sorts of crap along the way, getting harder and harder to decipher.

Everything is a secret - studies commissioned are scuppered, reports released are censored, idiots are appointed to committees, vague content less statements are issued by all and sundry.

There is so much distrust that everything anyone says is automatically assumed to be a lie by everyone else. Since everyone is doing a whole lot of talking, that has lumped facts, lies and misc bullshit into a bottomless pit, from which different talking heads randomly pull out scraps of garbage to wave around aimlessly. In the April 9 2006 issue of Dawn, Prof Arun Babat points out:

Surprisingly, issues in civil engineering, geology, seismology, geotechnology, hydrology, sedimentology, irrigation and agriculture are hardly being discussed.

He goes on to say:

Building of a dam is an engineering activity and as far as possible it should be viewed from the standpoint of engineers and scientists.

He brings up the very important fact that the earthquake of Oct 8 generated large amounts of seismo-sediments which could require fundamental changes in the pre-earthquake designs, and at the least require re-analyzing the currently estimated figures for the life, costs and economic viability of the dams.

Lost somewhere in all this noise, the World Bank says that Pakistan loses 50 percent of its waters through unlined irrigation canals, and water supply could be increased by improving the irrigation network at one fifth of the cost of building new dams.

However, the World Bank along with the Pakistan governmnment are staunch belivers in wasteful top-down systems of providing water through massive, centralized projects.

Fortunately, the Internet is out there, and you can make use of it:

resources

7 Comments

| Leave a comment
user-pic

This is one of the easier hot-button issues of our time since it does not involve history (which everybody has it's own version of), just facts.

Dams are good. Dams store water in the 'plenty' season, to make up for the lean ones. Millions of gallons of water goes back into the Arabian sea, without going through our taps, which are kept running, thanks to the Tanker Mafia. Last year the tanker which cost you Rs. 350, now costs Rs. 800 and this figure will only rise with time, unless we make plenty of dams and conserve water. If not, not only will you be paying through your nose, we very well might see famine and large scale starvation in the rural areas, where farms today will have become dust bowls.

This is not some khaam khiyali. Thousands of acres of arable land (a few measely acres belonging to yours truly) which fed even more families, have become desert in the Sindh-Punjab belt and scores are being added daily to the total.

The same politicians who are threatening to kill and be killed, if KBD project goes through, are the ones who ceremoniously included this project in their political manifesto a few years back (PPP, PML-N, to name two). Any sane person with a modest intellect can look at all these facts but choose to ignore them all for some political end. I can understand that. But if that person is going to make the case that dams are inherently bad (that's why India is making hundreds of them and China thousands), he is being plain disingenuous.

And it's not funny, when lives are at stake. Politics and personal agendas washed in imported mineral water shouldn't mock those with dry, chapped lips. Their hands may one day reach for that bottled water in your hand.

The short term benefits of a dam are always highlighted. The long term consequences are left to history. Huge mega dams are nothing but playing with nature. And mother nature will payback one day. Constructing dams in geo-tectonic shifting regions is nothing short of lunacy.

I don't pretend to be an expert, far from it. One issue, however, which seems to be ignored is salination of agricultural (or, of course, any) land; a direct result of over-irrigation and leaking canals and dams.
I think it's simplifying things to say that if you build the dam, there will be water for all. It is true that India and China are building thousands of dams, forcibly displacing people in thousands of towns and villages (take the dams on the Narmada river in India, for example); meanwhile, the self-titled developed world is busy dismantling thier own dams.
I have no problem with dams, my problem is with huge dams. I say use the money on education, energy- and water conservation and recycling, pollution, there is no shortage of issues here...
International institutions are all too eager to lend money for projects like this.

One final point if I may. The thousands of acres of arable land in danger of desertification will hardly be saved by irrigation, at least not in the traditional sense. They will however be rendered eventually useless after enough water has evaporated, leaving small amounts of salt behind, to make the soil so salty nothing useful will grow in it.

Marcus, desertification is already a serious problem in Pakistan. A simple google search will bring up tons of material about it.

Pakistan wastes over half its irrigation water beacuse of it's badly maintained irrigation system, silted up damns and unlined canals - this has been documented by the Pakistan govt. as well as the World Band and a number of NGO's - this has led to severe waterlogging and salinity in many areas. Close to 15 million hectacres (or 150,000 sq. km) have already been lost to waterlogging and salinity! Keeping to form, all this has been largely ignored in the drive to build more dams.

you people are really unknowledgeable becuase you have no map for the dams of Pakistan .
you peole are relly disguisting.

sir plz add information about dams how many dams in pakistan and what is name of all dams in pakistan and also tell that how many quantiity in dams.

user-pic

if u people have any map regarding dams of Pakistan kindly send me

Leave a comment