Water-stressed Pakistan looks for billions in donations to build dams

By Roshan Din Shad MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, Feb 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As Pakistan faces worsening water scarcity – and trouble sourcing international cash for hydropower dams it says it needs – it has turned to an unlikely source of cash: A fundraising campaign backed by the country’s top court judges.
Last year Mian Saqib Nisar – then the country’s chief supreme court judge – donated a million Pakistani rupees ($7,400) of his own money to start the drive, calling water shortages a major national threat.
"Building dams is not the responsibility of the court," said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of party Pakistan Peoples Party.
"Water (scarcity) has been Pakistan’s number one issue and the country may face shortages by 2025 if dams are not built," Khan warned in a state television address last September.
"Pakistanis, do take part in this jihad," the prime minister urged.
Nisar has said he took up Pakistan’s water worries as a personal campaign after Syed Mehar Ali, commissioner of the country’s Indus water treaty, testified in a court hearing last July about worsening water scarcity risks in the country.
Ali told the court that the country’s three western rivers – the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – carry nearly 140 million acre feet (MAF) of water but the country has water storage capacity for less than 14 MAF.
But building them has proved difficult.
An effort to construct a large-scale hydropower dam in Gilgit Baltistan, a Kashmir border region disputed with India, for instance, has had trouble attracting multinational funding.
Dozens of farmers from Sindh province marched to Karachi last October to protest construction of the Diamer Basha dam on the Indus River.

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