Key dam’s construction again delayed due to lack of finances

  • Diamer-Bhasha Dam may not be completed in next 10 years due to delay

Federal Minister for Water Syed Javed Ali Shah on Thursday dropped a bombshell in the National Assembly by informing the House that construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam could not be started as yet due to non-arrangement of finances and the dam won’t be completed in the next 10 years due to the delay.

The key dam would cost around $12 billion. The statement was made contrary to the study conducted by the Chinese engineers who had informed Pakistan around in May that the dam would be constructed in nine years’ time. In May, the Planning Commission had announced to complete the dam in nine years.

Now the Water Ministry has hinted an inordinate delay in the dam’s construction, reflecting inordinate delay. In a written statement, the minister informed the House that in order to prepare financing strategy for the project, a committee has been constituted by the Water and Power Ministry, which will submit its recommendations to the Cabinet Committee on Energy for approval.

“The project has been bifurcated into two parts – the dam and the power generation part… However, land acquisition, construction of infrastructure or preliminary works i.e. project colony at the Thor Valley, the Composite Model Village-II at Harpan Das are in process,” the statement added.

In this regard, the statement added that the PC-I of the dam part has been submitted to the Planning Commission on March 24, 2107. “The PC-I for implementation of the power generation part will be submitted by the year 2020 after making progress on the dam construction,” the statement added.

“As per timeline given in the PC-I (dam part), the dam will be operational in about 10 years after commencement of work related to the construction,” the minister said. When contacted, an official source in the ministry informed Pakistan Today that the dam’s construction was not in sight due to non-serious approach and faulty strategy adopted to arrange financial assistance in this regard.

It merits mention here that the statement reflects a major discord between the Planning Commission and the ministry as according to the commission, the Chinese government had agreed to build the dam in shortest possible timeframe.

In May, Pakistan and China had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) of a roadmap for power projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that was signed by Water & Power Secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokhar and Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong.

Under the MoU, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) would oversee building and funding of five dams including the Diamer-Bhasha, Pattan, Thakot, Bunji and Dasu. This would be China’s biggest-ever investment in Pakistan besides already committed projects worth $57 billion under the CPEC, the Planning Commission has said.

According to the official sources, the ministry had adopted a policy-shift in building of its hydroelectric reservouirs by inviting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as China’s private sector would be investing around $50 billion for several hydel power projects with regards to the North Indus River Cascade which also includes the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

On the occasion, NEA hosted Diamer-Bhasha project conference at Beijing where heads and representatives of the power companies gave presentations on their study of the dam project and called for a deeper study on the project owing to its crucial nature for Pakistan. In this regard, the Water & Power secretary also gave a briefing to the Pakistani and Chinese delegations at Beijing soon after the MoU was signed.

In their feasibility survey, Chinese experts have identified the potential of producing up to 60,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power mostly in Gilgit-Baltistan region. Around 45,000 megawatts of this potential power has been identified the Indus River Cascade, which begins from Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan and runs through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

China’s NEA has been working on the roadmap of several hydel projects to help Pakistan meet its growing energy demands under the cooperation under the One Belt One Road initiative. According to documents available with Pakistan Today, Pakistan is eyeing around 44,000 megawatts generation only through the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

Other than power generation, the dam would also provide water for agriculture sector which would largely help the country grow food stuff to under its food security plan.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions.



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