In theoretical terms, the life of Rawal Dam expires this year and had Pakistan been among the developed countries it would have had an alternative water reservoir in place by now.
After becoming operational in 1962, the artificial reservoir – Rawal Lake– became lifeline for the residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad catering to their water needs.
“The proposed life of small dams is 50 years, which ends in 2012. However it does not mean that the project will become useless after four months,” said Rana Bilal, an employee of Small Dams Organisation (SDO) of Punjab Irrigation Department.
The SDO maintains the Rawal Lake and conducts the annual checking of spillway, seepages, structures, etc., of the lake and other relevant structures after the monsoon season.
According to SDO report, the Rawal lake has already lost 37 per cent of its storage capacity, out of its designed capacity of 42,000 acre feet.
Currently the maximum storage capacity of the Rawal Lake is around 27,000 acre feet, but the authorities fear if measures are not taken the silts would continue to flow in, further reducing its storage capacity.
“The most serious issue comes during the dry spell when water availability declines in the reservoir due to silt,” said an official of the Capital Development Authority.
The 8.8 square kilometers Rawal Lake is mainly fed by the Korang River along with some other small streams coming from the hills of Murree around the Ghora Gali area.
Due to various reasons including carelessness and lack of funding proper survey of the lake has not been conducted since 1997.
“The complete survey has to be carried out after every five years through any authority like Wapda, which costs Rs50 million to Rs100 million. Presently, SDO and the Punjab
irrigation department carry out a general checking of infrastructure of the lakes of all over province,” said the SDO official Rana Bilal.
However, to provide protection against further erosion and accumulation of silts in Rawal Lake the SDO has made three ponds like check dams upstream at the Korang that stores fast flowing silts and there are proposals to establish three more check dams at Korang river and some other tributaries to further contain soil erosion into Rawal lake.
“Besides, there is a proposal to raise the level of Rawal Dam,” said Rana Bilal, adding Bandi and Tilkani dams in Fatehjung area have been raised.
A proposal was sent by the Islamabad Capital Territory administration for the de-silting of Rawal lake during the dry season but it was ruled out by the SDO for being too costly.
The officials said that for a proper de-silting there has to be a diversion of water first followed by bringing in heavy machinery including excavators and dumpers to take the mud out of
“The cost is so much that if some amount added to it a new small dam can be constructed,” said the SDO official. “It will develop two even more such reservoirs to cater to the needs of growing population.”
Apart from the water needs of the residents the reservoirs also acts as excellent conservation spots, one can witness thick flora and fauna around Rawal Lake, where almost all kinds of trees flourish without much aid of the authorities.
This thicket is a reservoir for wintering waterfowl, and resident mammals including the common fox, porcupine, wild cats, jackals, boars, etc., adding to the natural habitat of the Islamabad.
Besides, the lake and the land around have key picnic spots of federal capital with regular activities like swimming, fishing and boating and if more dams are established around the federal capital or Rawalpindi city more places for healthy recreational activities would be available for the residents of the twin cities.
Currently, work is in progress for the construction of Chohan dam in mauza Chohan near Chakri area, Tehsil Rawalpindi, while the SDO of Punjab Government and the CDA are jointly working to build Chirah dam at a cost of Rs5.2 billion near Nilore area. Both the projects are expected to be completed in 3 to 5 years. However it is less likely that these new lakes would become picnic spots for the masses.