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Islamabad

June 24, 2018

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Not too far back in time!

Islamabad : Till early ‘90s the Rawal Dam (or Rawal Lake) used to be a great place to spend some leisurely time with friends and families. Basking in the sun during winters or sitting in the shade of a tree with the line cast for fishing. Or, even have a dip in cool waters during sweltering summer afternoons.

The one like of us would just stick a bait (usually a small fish caught from shallow waters) with the hook and throw the line as far into the waters as one could manage, using a piece of wood as the floater!

But the professionals and amateur anglers would come well equipped with their fishing rods, nets, baskets and other equipment. We used to watch them more eagerly than paying attention to the lines that we have cast and whenever one of those anglers would hook a catch that would be fascinating to watch him bring the fish close enough to net it.

Then constructions in Banigala started. Some extremely influential, rich and powerful people constructed their villas right to the water front. A few even constructed quay (or is it a pier?) as they had the luxury of keeping their own private boats to go out for a ride in the lake or for hunting the migratory birds.

And when the water level soared in the lake one monsoon season many of those villas built too close to the water front got inundated! The owners quickly manipulated the authorities to open the spillway gates quite a few feet short of the optimum storage level of the dam.

The villas of the rich and influential were saved but the water retaining capacity of the reservoir was greatly reduced. The move went unnoticed because in those times the twin cities and the catchment areas of both Rawal and Simly dams used to get heavy monsoon rains. The spillway gates were opened many a times during the monsoon season and sometimes even in winters when we used to have prolonged wet spells, sometimes lasting the whole week.

Nobody ever thought that there would be shortage of water in the Rawal Dam (or Lake). Actually it was a dam built for water supply with a water treatment plant, mainly to the cantonment area of Rawalpindi and some parts of Islamabad (Sector G-7/1 and some part of the ‘National Park’ including Islamabad Club, Shakarparian, Rose & Jasmine Garden at that time. Rest of the structures and buildings popped up later).

Even during the past few years, whenever we had a good monsoon season, Rawal Dam used to attain the (revised) optimum level and many a times the authorities opened the spillways to flush excess water.

And in those days people used to sit in this canopy, built on pillars raised from the bed of the dam, enjoying ripples of waves lapping against these pillars almost up to the edge.

But now it is a horrifying sight! It is not that that Rawal Dam had not dried up in the past. It had many a times. But this thing has started happening after the year 1990.

“It was in 1994 Islamabad suffered the first ever and the worst water crisis of its history in wake of a prolonged dry spell. The Rawal Dam dried to the core while the water level in Simly dam dipped to as low as 2,224 feet above sea level,” recalled Shahid Sohail, the former Member (Engineering) of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

“The water level has dropped to the point that it had exposed the water-intake pipes to the water treatment plant and a unit of the Pakistan Army was called on emergency basis from Tarbela to set up pontoons on which huge water motors were installed to pump water from the bowl of the dram into the treatment plant,” Shahid Sohail recalled.

“However, God Almighty was kind and some good pre-monsoon rains saved the residents of Islamabad from a water shortage disaster,” he said.

There had been proposals and suggestions in the past to turn such disastrous times into a better opportunity and take out as much silt as possible as the water line recedes from the banks.

We wonder as to how practical this initiative could be and how cost effective at the same time and whether it would help achieve the basic objective, to increase the water storage capacity of the dam?

Only experts can give an opinion as to whether the soil, which appears parched and all dried up, could be moved using heavy earth moving machinery like bulldozers and excavators or lighter machinery like tractor and trolleys would be more suitable for the purpose.

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