"The Cultural Landscape of Balochistan"
Karez System Cultural Landscape
The Karez system of the Balochistan desert is a vibrant example of an ancient and still functional approach to community-based water management in an arid landscape. Karez irrigation technology was developed in arid and semi-arid areas from India and western China through the Middle East into North Africa.
The technology is believed to have originated in the 1st millennium BC in Persia from where the knowledge travelled east and westward along the Silk Route, throughout the Muslim world, arriving in Xinjiang in China during the Han dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) and in Balochistan somewhat earlier.
Traditionally, areas of population correspond closely to the areas where karez are possible. In this way the karez, its communities and their lands and pastures combine to form an organically evolved cultural landscape, rich in meaning and perfectly adapted to its harsh environment.
Karez are constructed as a series of well-like vertical shafts, connected by sloping tunnels, which tap into subterranean water in a manner that efficiently delivers large quantities of water to the surface by gravity, without need for pumping. The first well where the water is tapped for a karez is called the mother well, and there is a zone of roughly 1,200 feet in diameter where it is forbidden to dig new wells or otherwise threaten the quality and quantity of the groundwater. The vertical shafts along the underground channel are purely for maintenance purposes, and water is used only once it emerges from the daylight point.
Karez allow water to be transported over long distances in hot dry climates without loss of much of the water to evaporation. The system has the advantage of being resistant to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, and to deliberate destruction in war. Furthermore, it is almost insensitive to the levels of precipitation, delivering a flow with only gradual variations from wet to dry years. A karez is environmentally sustainable as it has no additional energy requirement and, thus, has low life cycle operation and maintenance costs.
Karez are owned and maintained by the community who buy shares in it or “shabanas”, 24-hour cycles. A karez, depending upon its size, may have anywhere from 18 to 32 shabanas distributed between its shareholders, with individual claims ranging from the right to a few minutes to a week of water. A shareholder, or shareeq, is entitled to the standing of a country gentleman in the community and may sit in a jirga and weigh in on collective decisions. In this way the system of water access, distribution and use is closely linked to social structures and community identity.
Although a karez system is expensive to construct, its long-term value to the community, and thereby to the group that invested in building and maintaining it, is substantial.
Today, though the system is under threat, there are approximately 1053 functioning karezes in Balochistan having more than 22,000 lps discharge, irrigating 27,000 ha in 2012. Another 270 karez are not functioning but could be restored to use. They are located in the northwest corner of Balochistan bordering with Afghanistan and Iran. A group of four representative karez is being proposed for inclusion on the Tentative List:
Spin Tangi Kareze, District Quetta
Chashma Achozai Kareze, District Quetta
Ulasi Kareze, District Pishin
Kandeel Kareze, Muslim Bagh, District Killa Saifullah
Irrigation system in Sindh Pakistan is being upgraded on modern lines keeping in view global environmental degradation and rapidly growing water needs. The irrigation in Sindh was intensified through the construction of barrages and development of canal irrigation system.
Rs1,173 million has been provided by the Punjab government for acquisition of additional land for Dadhocha Dam.
In 2019, the Punjab government had told the Supreme Court that it will complete the construction of the dam in 2021.
The government has allocated Rs2.8 billion to purchase the land for the dam.
The dam was proposed in 2001.
The dam project also concerns the 35 million gallons per day (MGD) water reservoir of the dam, for supplying water to the garrison city, since the older reservoir of Rawal Dam has completed its life span of 50 years.
The feasibility study for Dadhocha dam was approved during 2013-14, after which the irrigation department had hired consultants to move ahead with the project. In 2002, a pre-feasibility study of site No 1 was carried out by the Small Dams Organisation, which remained under active consideration for construction of the dam, the study stated, adding to secure the area required for the proposed project, a notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was also issued on November 3, 2010.
The area falls in the jurisdiction of three Tehsils of Rawalpindi district namely, Rawalpindi, Kahuta, and Kallar Syedan.
The two new water reservoirs over Ling River and Soan River were planned after realising the population explosion, for which the location of Dadhocha Dam over Ling River was technically evaluated and subsequently, recommended by Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), the petitioner said.
In August 2015, the Punjab government had declared the present site for the dam as technically and economically more feasible.
The consultant had suggested that a very narrow gorge and a natural bowl-shaped reservoir was present at the site, which was ideal for construction of the dam.
It was mentioned in the study that site No2 will have a storage capacity of 24,259 acres with 25 million gallons a day of water being supplied to the city.
The hydrology at the site is rated suitable for sustainable water supply.