Could construction of the KalaBagh Dam have prevented Pakistan’s 2022 floods?




As Pakistan grapples with its worst floods in living memory, leaving a staggering one-third of the country under water, many are asking whether the construction of KalaBagh Dam could have prevented the 2022 floods.

Its been 30 years since the designs of Kalabagh dam were proposed, but to this date the matter is a point of ongoing dispute.

Plans to build the dam on the Indus River in western Punjab have failed to materialize mainly because it is opposed by major political parties of Sindh and Kyber Pakhtunkhwah such as PTI, ANP, JUI(F) and PPP.They object to the site of Kalabagh Dam as being a threat to small provinces. Many studies have also been published on Kalabagh dam, arguing against the environmental and displacement impact of building large dams. Moreover, Sindhi people fear that the Kalabagh Dam would further reduce the water flow in Indus.

Meanwhile, in the past 30 years, the predicted cost of this project has escalated to be more than three times what it was in the original proposal. Many claim that if the dam is constructed the advantages will include annual savings of $4 billion in energy costs, Rs. 132 billion due to irrigation benefits and prevention of flood-loss damage, such as the $45 billion loss suffered in recent floods at the time the study was published. The also study estimated that the overall benefits of Kalabagh would provide Rs. 20 billion every year, and thus the cost of construction would be repaid within 8–9 years.

The 2022 floods have affected more than 30 million people over the last few weeks—killing at least 1,100 civilians and pushing almost half a million people into relief camps bringing forth a disaster that “requires urgent, collective action”- whether it be in form of updated discussions on the importance of constructing the KalaBagh Dam or on coming up with innovative strategies to dampen the impacts of climate change.