The Kurram Tangi Dam Project (KTDP) is a multipurpose water development initiative located across Kurram and Kaitu Weir river in North Waziristan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The project is located across Kurram river in North Waziristan Agency, about 14 KMs upstream of Kurram Garhi Head works and 32KMs North of Bannu City in previously Federally Administrated Tribal Area (Fata).
The feasibility study, detailed engineering design, and tender documents of the project were completed in 2005. The Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif laid the foundation stone of the controversial dam on March 3, 2017, allegedly without consulting the locals.
The announcement sparked a wave of protest demonstrations in the area to convince the government to revisit the decision of constructing the dam that could completely wipe out their identity from the area.
The construction of the longed-contentious Kurram Tangi Dam has triggered a strong reaction from the Kabul Khel tribe of North Waziristan Agency (NWA), vowing its construction would be resisted fiercely.
The Kurram Tangi project has been controversial since 1936, when it was first proposed by the British government. Kabul Khel tribe decried the construction of this dam since then. Including freedom fighter Mirza Ali Khan, when he went into self-exile to Afghanistan during the 1960s, highlighted his resentment against the construction of the dam as it would wipe out the identity of its people from the area.
The Kurram Tangi project has been controversial since 1936, when it was first proposed by the British government, and Kabul Khel tribe decried the construction of this dam. Mirza Ali Khan, known as the Faqir of Ipi, went into self-exile to Afghanistan to show his resentment against the construction of the dam during 1960, as it would wipe out the identity of its people from the area. He then said that Faqir of Ipi would only returned if the government signed an agreement with him regarding non-construction of the dam.
Sources said that about 4451.5421 hectares of land required for the water reservoir has a population of about 12,000 living in 32 villages, with an average size of seven persons per family. Their economic grouping includes landowners, tenants, herdsmen, among others. They will need to be resettled due to the inundation of the reservoir area. In addition, 142 cattle sheds, 266 wells, 47 watercourses, about 20 kilometres of roads, about 43 km dirt tracks, 29 primary schools, 11 middle/high schools, one vocational training centre, three madrassas, a hospital, two basic health units, two mother and child health centres, and three veterinary clinics will also be affected.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project was conducted in 2004 as part of an overall feasibility of the project. “The review of this EIA during the present assignment has revealed that it needs to be significantly upgraded to meet the national regulatory requirements,” the report added. It said baseline surveys need to be repeated to gather information about those likely to be affected by the construction of the dam.
As estimated by the EIA in 2004, about 6070.3 hectares of land would be required for the entire project, including the dam, reservoir, powerhouses, and canals of which about 4937.16 hectares or 83% are privately owned, while about 1052.2 hectares or about 17% is state owned. Almost 75% of this land is required for the reservoir, which means about 688 hectares of agricultural land would be lost.
Since 2004, the design has been changed and the height of the dam has been raised to 322 feet (98 metres), increasing the reservoir area to 4451.54 hectares, and the storage capacity to 1480176000 cubic meters. The construction of three new canals for the project will require about 930.776977 hectares of land, 25% of which is in the militancy-hit tribal territory of North Waziristan Agency, while the remaining 75% lies in the Bannu district. About 404.686 hectares will be covered by construction of project structures like the main dam including its appurtenant structures, powerhouses and the weir on Kaitu River.
The elders of the area convened a huge jirga on April 10, 2017 in NWA to take the final decision that the construction of what they dubbed “politically-motivated dam” would not be allowed at any cost. The elders vowed that they would not compromise on the issue because it is a matter of death and life and it could only be materialised on their dead bodies.
In May 2019, a FIR was lodged against incumbent member of parliament and other activist for inciting people to attack construction site.