The province of Sindh lies nearest to the sea on the Indus River (“lower riparian”) and has been the strongest opponent of the Kalabagh Dam. Its politicians have presented many objections:
- Sindh’s share of Indus water will be curtailed as water run off from the Kalabagh Dam will go to irrigate farmlands in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Sindh’s detriment. Sindhis hold that their rights as the lower riparian have precedence according to international water distribution laws.
- The coastal regions of Sindh require a constant flow of water from the Indus to the Arabian Sea to keep seawater from intruding inland. If the flow of water is stopped, the incoming sea water would turn many areas of Sindh’s coast into an arid saline desert, and destroy its coastal mangroves.
- With the construction of dams such as the Tarbela Dam across the Indus, Sindhis have seen the once-mighty river become a shadow of its former glory downstream of theKotri Barrage as far as Hyderabad. They fear that there is not enough water for another large dam across the Indus.
- Sindh claims that the Indus only continues to flow downstream of the Kotri Barrage because of rain. Hence in years of low rain and with a new dam in place, Sindh fears the river would stop flowing.
- Damming the Indus has already caused a number of environmental problems yet to be addressed. Silt deposited at the proposed Kalabagh Dam would further curtail the water storage capacity of Manchar Lake and other lakes and wetlands including Haleji Lake.
- President Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and other leaders, have promised “iron-clad constitutional guarantees” to ensure that Sindh get its fair share of water. However, these assurances mean little to most Sindhis, who claim that even the earlier 1991 Indus Water-Sharing Accord, a document already guaranteed by the constitutional body the Council of Common Interests, has been violated, and that Punjab has “stolen” their water without any concrete evidence.
Objections to the Kalabagh Dam in Sindh are widespread. The political parties of Sindh in the central cabinet who are supported by General Musharraf, such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, have strongly denounced the dam. Opposition towards the dam is such that the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML N) Sindh Chapter is in agreement with opponents of the dam. PML N’s leader Nawaz Sharif, who as then Prime Minister of Pakistan, had stated in 1998 that he proposed to build the dam, retracted from his stance and declared that Sindh’s viewpoint ought to be respected; no project, however essential, should be carried out that weakened Pakistan’s Federation.