Kalabagh Dam project divides National Assembly

By: Javaid-ur-Rahman

ISLAMABAD: The controversial Kalabagh Dam project met strong opposition in the National Assembly yesterday when some legislators warned it could only be built “over their dead bodies”.

Supporters and opponents clashed in the Assembly when a legislator from MQM called for the government to speed up the construction of new reservoirs.

Some treasury members proposed thinking about the feasibility of Kalabagh Dam and visit to the site to get the idea.

Among options to deal with water scarcity and floods in the country, some lawmakers floated the idea to call all-party conference (APC) in the country.

Water and Power Minister Khwaja Asif said water crisis was “even worse and more complicated than” energy problem in the country.

“APC could also be called on it. I think it should be called,” he said, responding to the suggestions made by the MNAs to summon the moot on it.

However, the minister brushed aside idea of forming a judicial commission to resolve the issue of dam construction.

“All problems should be solved in the house, rather discussing it at any other forum,” Asif said, adding that he would wind up after complete discussion on it from both sides.

PPP lawmaker Sattar Bachani said there was no need to even think about Kalabagh (Dam) in the country as it could only be built on their dead bodies.

“A situation of water scarcity and floods is being created to deliberate on Kalabagh Dam, which cannot be possible in our lives,” he said and stressed the need for constructing small dams in the country.

PTI’s Amjad Khan said there was a need to make new reservoirs to deal with the issue of water scarcity.

“Our country faces water shortage and floods due to poor planning,” he said.

Qaumi Watan Party chief Aftab Sherpao also supported the opinion of only focusing uncontroversial dams in the country.

“Floodwater should be stored and proper work on the Munda Dam should be started,” he added.

PPP’s Nawab Yusuf Talpur seconded small dams in the country but strongly opposed the idea to construct Kalabagh Dam in the country.

“We should leave thinking about this dam and focus on small dams,” he added.

Jamaat-e-Islami parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah said there was a need to take precautionary steps to avoid floods in the country.

He said APC should also be summoned to thoroughly discuss water scarcity and floods issue.

However, Afzal Dhandala, from treasury, said that there was a need to remove misunderstanding over the construction of Kalabagh Dam.

“Setting aside political differences, we need to deal issues on technical basis,” he said.

Another government lawmaker Awais Leghari said water reservation is strength of any civilization in the country.

“Water importance is directly related to population of the country, as Balochistan has not much population,” he said adding that Kalabagh Dam was made controversial.

“We need to adopt small measures to meet water needs,” he added.

Obaidullah Shadi Khel proposed visiting the site of Kalabagh Dam to ascertain the reason behind making it controversial.

“It should not be made controversial.

People are facing hardships in shape of foods and scarcity so these matters need to be looked after,” he added.

Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh from PML-N also proposed summoning a conference to debate on its feasibility.

Moeen Watto from government also suggested calling APC.

“A judicial commission should decided its importance, if consensus could not be built on it,” he proposed.

MQM’ lawmaker Rashid Godil said dams should be built with consensus.

“Government should take this matter on priority,” he said citing an example of construction of small dams in other country.

Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid informed the house that different governments inaugurated Bhasha Dam for four times.

“I am not seeing light at the end of tunnel about the early completion of Bhasha Dam,” he said casting doubts over the early construction Dasu and Bhasha dams.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) MNA Sher Akbar also opposed construction of Kalabagh dam, saying that uncontroversial dam including Munda and Bhasha dams.

Earlier, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yusuf informed that his ministry has taken action against fraud Haj operators.

A call attention notice was moved by Naeema Kishwar Khan and others of non-provision of the necessary facilities to pilgrims.

The minister said the intending pilgrims under the government Haj scheme this year will have to pay around two hundred sixty-two thousand rupees.

The house also witnessed rumpus from women MNAs when they raised voice for equal uplift funds for women lawmakers.

The women lawmakers were unsatisfied from minister’s response, as they viewed that there was discrimination in distribution of funds.

State for Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shaikh Aftab Ahmad said the government allocated 20 billion rupees for community development schemes to be implemented through DCOs to achieve Millennium Development Goals in different fields.

The bills include “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2015”, “The Right to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015”, were also referred to the committee concerned for deliberations.