Damaan Bachao Taralla
development induced destructions
Chashma Irrigation Project
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DAMAAN BACHAO TARALLA (Save Damaan Movement)

Background and context


click above for larger map of Damaan area.
click above for larger view of locations of these projects.

Damaan is the floodplains region in the western central Pakistan. Gigantic hill-torrents occasionally pouring down from its western Sulaiman Mountain Range and finally joining the mighty Indus River in the east played vital role in making its diverse geographies anddetermining its histories and cultures.

Damaan was once considered to be the gateway to India owing to its traversable numerous mountain passes connecting Afghanistan and the central Asia to the sub-continent. Invaders and traders continued to pass through Damaan for centuries before the advent of new transportation and communication technologies. Owing to its geo-political significance and strategic location, Damaan turned to be a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural region. Though Damaan is still predominantly Siraiki speaking region but other major ethno-cultural groups include Balochs and Pakhtoons.

Damman is confronted with the greatest challenge of its history: the challenge of mega development irrigation projects imposing destruction on local livelihoods and ecology, and violations of rights through very instruments oflaw themselves. The government is implementing three mega irrigation projects in the area including the Chashma Right Bank Irrigation Project (CRBIP), Gomal Zam Dam Project (GZDP) and Kachhi Canal Project (KCP).

ADB funded Chashma Right Bank Irrigation Canal (CRBIP) is an extensive irrigation project that involves the construction of a 274 km canal along the Indus River and the construction of 72 distribution canals, 68 cross-drainage structures and 91 bridges. The first two stages of the main canal have already been completed, while the last and third stage is close to its completion. Its total cultivable command area is approximately 606,000 acres of land. >>>Chashma Irrigation Project.

Gomal River, on which a 437 feet high Gomal Zam Dam will be built, is one of the significant tributaries of Indus River. It is planned to irrigate about 163,000 acres of land. The total projects costs amounts to Rs. 12 billion. It will be a Roller compacted concrete dam, having a gross storage of 1.14 MAF. It will produce 17.4 MW of electricity when completed. Approximately Rs. 4.388 billion contracts for the construction of Gomal Zam Dam Project was awarded to Messers CWHEC - HPE, a joint venture of two Chinese firms in August 2002.

Kachhi Canal Project was started in October 2002. The project, estimated to cost Rs28 billion, is planned as a fast track part of Vision-2025, the national development programme of water and hydropower resources. The first leg of the project comprises 500-kilometre-long Kachhi Canal to off take from Taunsa Barrage with a capacity of 6,000 cusecs. According to the official documents, the project will provide irrigation to 713,000 acres of land and will enhance cropping intensity in the project area from the present 2 per cent to 46 per cent. The Kachhi Canal will be fed through Taunsa Barrage for only six months. >>>Kachhi Canal Project.

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Development Induced Destruction


Flooded village in Riverine Belt. (6 April 2003)

Notwithstanding all three-mega irrigation development projects look fancy in terms of tall claims to providing perennial irrigation water and magically enhancing cropping intensity and yields and thus bringing prosperity and well-being to people of Damaan, there is another and much ugly side of the coin as well. Floodwater of traditional rowed-kohi system- once cherished an important source as well as sustenance of life supporting system- will be now wrecking havoc in one or another form. As the gigantic structures of both CRBIP and KCP are located in the middle of more than two hundred bigger and small natural flood channels in the area, floodwater will be blocked and thus create massive project induced flooding and displacement. Furthermore, an unnatural blockage in the drainage of floodwater will multiply the process of sediment deposition in the west side of these projects and will be thus adversely impacting livelihoods, ecology and geographies in the area. Legal and historical rights of local communities over floodwater will not only be disrupted but a large number of the people of Damaan will be permanently deprived to continuing the use of floodwater.

In the case of CRBIP, this threat of massive project induced flooding has already become reality. About twenty-two villages in the west side of the main canal and more than fifty villages in the Indus riverine belt are facing project induced flooding and displacement. Approximately fifty thousands acres of land is now seasonally submerged by blocked floodwater in the west side. Consequently, local farmers are not able to grow their crops, which are their only means of income and livelihood. The level of the west side will continue to rise up steadily because of high sediment deposition and will thereby not only further create threats for human settlements but can pose a grave danger to the safety of the main canal itself and other related engineering structures.

Click above to view the illustrated summary of design failures and subsequent damages of Chashma Project

Local communities of the Chashma project area living along the Indus riverine belt are now teasingly sandwiched between the continuous riverbank erosion and project-induced flooding. More than fifty villages are now not able to grow seasonal cotton crops in the monsoon season and increasingly becoming impoverished and vulnerable. Flooding and subsequent massive sediment deposition is causing changes in river flow patterns. In the case of KCP, the situation will not be different.

Gomal Zam Dam Project will not only be creating up-stream inundation after the construction of a 437 feet high dam and also a barrage in the downstream but will permanently deprive more than fifty thousands of people in southern part of the project area from their legal and historical rights over floodwater. The area in this side will become desert and people will be compelled to migration from their native living places. The success of GZDP is highly susceptible because of

high sediment deposition in the dam area. According to the official figures, about 750 million tones of silt will be annually deposited in the dam area. See the Survey Report on Gomal Zam Dam Project.

All three mega irrigation development projects are likely to further aggravate inter-provincial conflicts around water and generate ethno-political tensions in Damaan as well as at country level.

Land acquisition process during the construction of CRBIP was not only totally illegal and against the provisions of national laws but compensation rates are much lower than the average market land prices in the area. An emergency was imposed for the purpose of acquiring land from farmers and majority of them have not yet been compensated. The situation in the case of GZDP and KCP is no more different.

Though sudden raptures in traditional lifestyle, disruptions in physical mobility and breakdown of social networks and local markets links can not be quantified on any terms but such happenings will have longing adverse impacts.

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