Kala Bagh Dam: the need of hour

The Kala Bagh Dam, is a proposed Hydroelectric Dam on the Indus river at Kalabagh in the Mianwali District of Punjab Province in Pakistan. Intensely debated, if constructed the dam would have 3,600 megawatts (4,800,000 hp) of electricity generation capacity.


In December 2004, then President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf, announced that he would build the dam to serve the larger interest of Pakistan. However, on 26 May 2008, the Federal Minister for Water and Power of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf, said that the “Kalabagh Dam would not be constructed” and that the project had been cancelled due to “opposition from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and other stakeholders, the project was no longer feasible”.

Importance of Kalabagh Dam

Kalabagh Dam Project would be located on river Indus 100 miles south-west of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
This multi-purpose project would have a live storage capacity of 6.1 million acre feet (MAF).Besides making up for the capacity loss in reservoirs, it
would make substantial contribution to firming up the irrigation supplies not only for new projects but additional allocation agreed by the provinces
under Water Apportionment Accord (WAA) of 1991. Further, it would add a large amount of cheap hydropower to the National Grid through its 2400
MW (Ultimate 3600 MW) installed power.

  •  Replacing storage lost by sedimentation in existing reservoirs at Mangala, Chashma and Tarbala (estimated about 3 MAF by the year
  •  Providing additional storage to meet existing water shortages during early Kharif sowing period of April-June (particularly critical for
    cotton crop in Sindh).
  •  Providing effective regulation of Indus River to meet additional Kharif allocations of the provinces under WAA, 1991.
  •  Regulation and control of high flood peaks in the Indus to enable provision of perennial tube well irrigation to the rive rain area in
  • Generating a large chunk of hydro-power for meeting the growing demand of agricultural, industrial and domestic consumers through
    low cost option.
  • Reducing dependence on imported fuels.
  • Creating employment for 30,000 persons during construction and significant numbers after commissioning.

Project Benefits:

Kalabagh would store surplus water in the flood season and make it available for controlled utilization during the low flow season. This water
would thus be used for sowing and final maturing of the Kharif crops and entire Rabi crops.
Irrigation oriented operation of the project gives the highest overall economic return. Thus the full live storage of 6.1MAF would be available for
guaranteeing assured irrigation supplies throughout the year including replacement of the storage loss on the three existing reservoirs.


Kalabagh with its installed capacity of 2400 MW (ultimate 3600 MW) would add to the system a very large chunk of cheap hydro-power. In an
average year, 11413 million kilowatts hours (MKWh’s) of electricity would be generated at Kalabagh. Further, as a result of conjunctive operation
an additional 336 million MKWh’s and up to 600 megawatts (MW) of additional peak power would be generated at Tarbela. To put these figures in
perspective, if Kalabagh was in position today, there would have been no load-shedding in Pakistan.
The energy generated at Kalabagh would be equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil per year.

Flood Alleviation:

Kalabagh would reduce the frequency and severity of flooding along the Indus particularly between the dam site and Indus/Punjab confluence, 300
miles downstream.
For the rive rain areas lower down in Sindh, it would enable conversation of the existing ‘Sailaba’ areas to the year round tube well irrigation.

Overall Benefits:

On a conservation basis, the overall direct benefits of Kalabagh Dam would be around Rs. 25 billion per annum. Thus the investment cost of project
would be repaid within a very short period of 9-10 years.

Consequences of not building kalabagh dam:

  • National food security would be jeopardized, thus subjecting the economy to additional burden of importing food grains.
  •  Loss of storage capacity of the on-line reservoir due to sedimentation would result in shortage of committed irrigation supplies
    causing serious drop even in existing agriculture production.
  •  For implementation of Water Apportionment Accord 1991, a new storage project like Kalabagh is essential. In its absence it would
    give rise to bitter inter-provincial disputes and recriminations particularly in a dry water year. Dispute between Punjab and Sindh on
    shortage of about 0.2 MAF water during Rabi maturing/Kharif sowing 1993-94 should be eye-opener. It may be worth mentioning that
    Rabi 1993-94 had a normal river inflow pattern.
  • The annual energy generated at Kalabagh is equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil. This annual import of fuel for thermal generation,
    including augmentation of transportation infrastructure, would be an additional burden to the economy.
  • Growth of domestic industrial and agriculture sectors would be impended due to high power costs.

The overall climatic change of Pakistan has slowed down melting of the snow from mountains, thus reducing flow of rivers and leaving very little water for the winter crops (Kharif) in Punjab as well as Sindh. In the wake of this scenario, construction of high dams in the country is assuming highest priority as irrigated agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy.

If nothing is done, there would be approximately 18% shortfall in irrigation water supply and Pakistan will turn into a water-scarce country. Due to complete stoppage of any sizeable surface water resources development, the sustainability of existing irrigated agriculture is in serious jeopardy.

With a large arable land, Pakistan still has the potential of bringing several million acres of virgin land under irrigation. An important impediment in the way of this development is insufficient control over flood water of the rivers and let go large quantities of water into the sea.


The kalabagh Dam is not onlu beneficial to Punjab, but it would be more helpful in erasing poverty KPK, as it would irrigate 800,000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100-150 feet above the level of Indus river. Large scale injection of cheap Kalabagh hydropower would help to keep cost of electricity within affordability of the consumers.

It is ready to construct but it is impossible to construct due to political eye view.



2 thoughts on “Kala Bagh Dam: the need of hour

  1. Well villagers think that dam took away the natural growing power of water and therefore their crops will suffer and second the politician doesn’t get any advantage from this that’s why they don’t put any effort for its construction. Even if they try to construct it they will lose support from the villagers due to fact I just quote and it takes too much time for construction so their rule will be over when it’s construction will be completed and it will give no advantage to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. its not about villagers or their own benefits… india is paying a heavy amount to our politicians to fight against the construction of kalabagh dam. obviously its about the mentality of the people and politicians too but main reason behind this is india.


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