PM to inaugurate Diamar Dam with Chinese venture

  • Minister says govt to initiate much-awaited mega project after due homework

While construction work on the much-awaited project of the Diamar-Bhasha Dam is yet to be started since the first inauguration of the project in 2006, the federal government has planned another inauguration of the project by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif next month.

The prime minister would be laying the foundation stone of the $15 billion project for the third time as the project was earlier inaugurated by then president Pervez Musharraf in 2006 and then prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in 2001.

Read more: China signs MoU investing in five biggest dams in Indus River cascade

Ministry of Water and Power, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and other authorities concerned have been asked to make necessary arrangements for the foundation laying ceremony after China given a green signal for investing into the multibillion-dollar project.

“Musharraf and Yusuf Raza Gilani had inaugurated the project without any development on the ground like the acquisition of land and arrangement of the funding. We are going to inaugurate the dam after due homework after which work on the much-delayed project will practically be started,” said Barjees Tahir, federal minister of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir Affairs.

“We have paid over Rs 50 billion to victims of the dam as compensation to their land so far and almost 90 percent required land for the project has been acquired. We are also moving forward to establish a colony with education, health and others facilities for the relocated families,” he said, adding that transparency in the fund disbursement has been ensured.

Officials at WAPDA office in Diamar confirmed that the authority has been asked to make necessary arrangements for the next ground-breaking ceremony of the project.

The official said that the government has decided to inaugurate the project after assurance and subsequent agreement with China for financing the project as no lender including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and others was ready to fund the dam power plants. Pakistan has previously been running from pillar to post for the past several years to secure funding but to no avail, reportedly due to influential Indian directors sitting at international donor institutions.

Even the World Bank and the ADB refused to provide funds for the project. At the time of the first inauguration of the dam on April 26, 2006, the estimated cost of the project was about $6.5 billion. But till 2011 when the dam was inaugurated for the second time, the cost of the project was swelled to $12 billion. The cost has jumped to $15 billion before the third time laying foundation stone ceremony.

Read more: China pledges $124 billion to OBOR

With Chinese investment, it is expected that work on the dam would be started by the end of this year as Islamabad and Beijing on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop North Indus River Cascade (hydro-based energy projects) with an estimated cost of $50 billion.

Under the initiative, initially, five huge dams will be built in a region that starts from Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan and runs through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as far as Tarbela, in the first-ever private sector investment in Pakistan’s mega hydel projects. Under the MoU, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) would oversee financing and funding of Diamer Basha Dam, Patan Hydropower, Thakot Hydropower, Bunji Hydropower and Dasu Hydropower projects.

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