September 18, 2010

The Myth of the Dams

Tarbela Dam. (Photo: Dawn.com)
You know when I was a little kid, who got scared by the thoughts of the boogeyman, I was taught how to hate India. It was a systematic incubation of the hate-India gene that was then left to grow in a relatively sterile environment. I was given all the right elements to let this virus inside of me grow and nurture until I was completely consumed by it. I still am if I’m honest. Nothing gives me more exhilaration than a good dose of India bashing.

But in reality, what this perception of India-is-the-greatest-threat-to-our-existence mixed with the Islamic political dogma did was isolate me, just like the rest of us from reality. We have believed fiction over reality because a) we cannot stand the reality, b) we have twisted reality around in incredible proportions, c) most of us don’t even know what the reality is and d) those of us who are well versed and well acquainted with reality would not like us to change our perception about India because that would mean hurting them in the nuts because they have vested interests involved in keeping the nation addicted to this India-bashing-syndrome.

The scope of this systematic decimation of the thinking power of the Pakistani nation goes well beyond what this article can cover. So let me just pick one point which has been pointed out to me by my friend Asfandyar Asif: Dams. We all know India has built dams on our rivers and has blocked our water. We also know that under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, India has no right to do that and it is simply a gross violation of the terms that were agreed to under the watchful eye of the World Bank in 1960. But wait; is it all that simple and straightforward?

As has been the case with us for the greater part of almost 6 and a half decades now, we have believed every word that the state has told us without verifying it from anywhere despite the deep rooted notion inside of us that inspires us to curse the government and its lackeys because they are chain-liars. Professionals. What then made us believe the government on this point that India has stopped our waters? Was it because the media said so? But then, you would be an incorrigible buffoon to have so readily believed it.

Let me lay out some technical facts for you. We start with the fact that out of the 180 million people in Pakistan, less than a 100 will have actually read the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. According to the treaty’s clauses, India has up till now done absolutely nothing wrong. Don’t take my word for it. For once verify my source. Read the treaty yourself. Once you read it, you will come to know that the genius (pun intended) man Ayub Khan sold three of our rivers to the Indians at the behest of the World Bank. Which sane man decides to “sell” natural, national resources? Who does? But he didn’t stop there. His government also decided to let India use up to 4 Million Acre Feet of water from the three rivers that are legally Pakistan’s to use. So ladies and gents, sorry to burst your bubble on this one but no, India hasn’t done anything illegal up till now.

Now, this beggars the question as to why is the Government of Pakistan harping on about taking this matter to the arbitrator (World Bank) when it is sure to lose? Well, fact number two is that the Government of Pakistan has already tried a similar stunt some years ago and it failed. According to the treaty, India was adjudged as being within its right to do whatever it was doing on our rivers. The Government quietly slid its tail between its legs, and came home.

Since the PPP government has come in, it has only harped on about taking this matter to the court; it has shown no concrete steps to do so practically. The reason is simple; it quite simply knows that it will lose the case to India once again, and it will have to bleed through the nose in front of the public through the media which will make a mockery of it. So what do they decide to do? They decide to keep up the India bashing because it raises the morale of the Pakistanis and keeps their minds off discovering who the real culprit really is.

Now onto the question of building dams that my fellow countrymen raise so often. According to befuddling WAPDA provided figures with which I do not want to bore you, the Pakistani river system has 145 Million Acre Feet of water, and 35 Million Acre Feet of water that flows into the Arabian Sea. It is this 35 Million Acre Feet of water that the proponents of the Kalabagh dam say they want to preserve. I’m sorry to burst your bubble once again but I’m afraid in actuality, the total water in the river system of Pakistan is 137 Million Acre Feet and less than 10 Million Acre Feet of water flows into the Indus. This lack of water flowing into the sea has effectively caused the sea to “eat up” the land in the Indus Delta causing a loss of approximately 250 km2 of land; not only that, Sindhi farmers are also totally dependent on the water that flows into Sindh from Punjab to irrigate their lands. Any yoodling by Punjab, or any stops on the system to store water in the reservoir will lead to decimation of the entire crops of Sindh for at least one year.

There is still hope and respite though. We lose approximately 50% of our current water to poor management and unclear policies. We have not updated our technology, nor have we utilized green agriculture to bring about a change in the way we consume (waste, actually) water. President Zardari is right when he says we need plenty of small dams. These dams could be sponsored by local communities and made exclusive to them. They could be used for power generation (again, localized grids and not nationwide) and also serve as a barrier against floods.

I know this post was long, but then the argument is very long and I have only skimmed the surface of it. Maybe I’ll write about why we wallow in India bashing so much and who’s interests does it serve, next. Till then my request remains the same: Start questioning, and start seeking answers to questions that you have taken for granted.