BHASHA DAM MUST FOR TACKLING WATER SCARCITY

MOHAMMED ARIFEEN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Feb 13 - 19, 20
12

The Friends of Democratic Pakistan task force in its final report has given top priority to Diamer-Bhasha dam.

ADB has decided to play a major role in the development of Diamer-Bhasha dam as its prime lender, co-financier, and financial adviser to make the $12 billion project bankable for lenders, export credit agencies, and contractors.

Pakistan and ADB had agreed to process the project together so that its framework is acceptable to international financial institutions, commercial banks and export credit agencies.

The dam has been described by both Pakistan and USA as the highest priority project. The two sides mutually agree that the project requires support from international partners - both public and private - and the support of the friends of democratic Pakistan.

The World Bank has come under severe criticism from international development lenders for not funding this 'highest priority project'. The World Bank is unwilling to engage in this project.

It is believed that India has informally communicated to the bank its objection to the dam and for this reason the bank has not enlisted itself to the project. The World Bank had earlier declined to fund the project because of its location and some unsolved constitutional versions.

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Foundation stone of the world's highest concrete Diamer-Bhasha dam has been laid on the Indus. The $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam on the Indus would produce 4,500MW of electricity and store over eight million-acre feet of water and help meet the country's future power and agricultural requirements.

The project will be the largest and most costly project currently planned in the South Asia. Nevertheless, a multi-purpose project for efficient development and management of water and hydropower resources, like Diamer-Basha, is of vital importance for the country. Moreover, this would be the first mega reservoir project in last thirty years.

The government wants an investment of about $3.7 billion in foreign exchange for the project. With Pakistan reaching the doorway of water deficient countries, the government has already finalized Rs40 billion out-of-court agreements with 30,000 families to be affected by the proposed dam.

The country's per capita water availability, which was more than 5,000 cusecs in 1950, has come down to 1,000 cusecs per day because the nation has not been able to build a dam in almost four decades, according to a senior Wapda official.

Pakistan has been seeking US support and investment for the $11.2 billion dam in order to encourage international lenders to finance the mega project. Top of Form

Top of FormThe United States has pledged to provide more than $500 million for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam to encourage multilateral institutions like the World Bank to become part of the lenders' consortium taking up the multi-billion-dollar project.

China has assured Pakistan that it will be providing financial assistance of up to four billion dollar. Islamic Development Bank has also agreed to partially finance the project.

The economic coordination committee of the cabinet allowed the water and power development authority (Wapda) to raise Rs20 billion through term finance certificates and Islamic Sukuk bonds for the dam.

It is said that Bhasha dam's site is not a natural site for a storage dam like Tarbela and Kalabagh. The RCC Bhasha dam height is 922 feet with a water storage capacity of 6.7 maf and hydropower generation capacity of 4500 mw.

There is no RCC dam anywhere higher than 620 feet in China. RCC is comparatively soft and susceptible to cracks and outflow compared to formal vibrated concrete used for building thousands of high dams, bridges, and skyscrapers etc.

The location of Bhasha dam falls under an active earthquake zone, and is prone to extraordinary environmental hazards. The project is located in a mountainous, earthquake-prone area and there are engineering challenges. The site is reportedly in a seismic zone where there are signs of volcanic activity.

Whatever may be the disadvantage of building the dam, there is no need to be pessimistic. The project can be raised on the ground taking into consideration all the safety aspects.

Bhasha dam will not only help Pakistan to resolve the energy crisis in the country, but will also help the country to overcome the water scarcity challenge.

The project will help save $2.85 billion in foreign exchange for production of equivalent electricity on imported oil. Live storage of 6.4 maf of water will help in supplementing irrigation. It will help to lessen downstream flood losses. It is expected to enhance potential life of Tarbela reservoir by 35 years.