Month: October 2011

Gilgit-Baltistan:Resettlement and royalties

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IN Pakistan where water and other energy resources are becoming increasing- ly scarce, the creation of large-capacity dams appears a sensible idea. However, the creation of such reservoirs has been a contentious issue as in the case of the Kalabagh dam project which had to be shelved.

The most recent project to be put on course — after three decades — was the Diamer-Bhasha dam. Meanwhile, the upgrading of Mangla Dam has failed to live up to expectations, even though the main project of raising the dam`s height was completed in 2008. The sticking points tend to be squabbling among the provinces over projected revenues and the reset- tlement of and compensation for those displaced. Both Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have laid territorial claims to the Diamer-Bhasha dam, for example, while raising the height of Mangla Dam has affected 50,000 people. The issue of resettlement and compensation has not yet been addressed, leading to resistance by the affected communities against the filling of the reservoir.

It is thus welcome news that the government is considering preparing a formula for sharing royalties and resettlement costs in such a manner that the maximum benefit goes to the people displaced by the projects. Currently, no such formula exists, and these ideas are to be discussed during a US-Pakistan dialogue on reforms in the water sector and international lending, scheduled to begin on Nov 2. Reportedly, the example under study is the revenue-sharing arrangement in Brazil under which six per cent of the gross revenues are allocated to the affected areas with half the amount going to the provinces and the other half to affected municipalities. If such a formula is created, it could remove the confusion over royalties and resettlement. It has been suggested that a clause in the constitution promising the profits to the province where the relevant power station is located has complicated matters, because power generation is given precedence over issues faced by displaced persons. This charge should be carefully examined and the matter resolved at the earliest. Resistance to dams that are sorely needed in a water-scarce country will continue until clarity is achieved over how the projects are to proceed. (Dawn)

Gilgit-Baltistan:Funding from International Financial Institutions for Diamer Dam

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THE ground-breaking for the Bhasha dam project has taken place. But the Pakistani authorities have yet to get their act together and press ahead with their legitimate claims to funding from the International Financial Institutions.

A report in this newspaper yesterday indicated that against its own rules and procedures, the World Bank has been stalling over discussions on the Bhasha dam — and yet Pakistan has done little to challenge the Bank’s wrongful approach. The problem is reasonably straightforward to explain, technicalities notwithstanding: whenever a hydel project is to be built with Bank funding in disputed territory — as Gilgit-Baltistan is owing to the Kashmir dispute — a state to the dispute can have such funding stalled by demonstrating that the project would materially affect its claim to the territory.
The important point to note is that the onus is on the state objecting to the project to prove the latter would affect its territorial claims. However, in the case of Bhasha, it is believed that the Indian government has informally objected to the dam and the World Bank has ignored its own rules/burden of proof to allow the Indian objections to prevail.

Unfortunate as the Bank’s stance may be, the question that needs to be asked here in Pakistan is: why haven’t Pakistani officials pressed their very legitimate and rightful claim to seeking World Bank financing more urgently? Therein lies a key part of the answer to Pakistan’s deepening energy woes: the administrative apparatus here is too inert and suffers from a numbing lack of direction by the political leadership. It’s a tale that has been told so many times already that it hardly bears repetition. A country’s energy requirements are a key part of its national security strategy. We can take as examples China, the US and the advanced European economies. They have searched far and wide for energy supplies and pressed their national interest in every international fora. On the other hand, there is Pakistan, an increasingly water-stressed and energy-deficient country.
Bhasha is no panacea, but it could be a very important plank in Pakistan’s energy and water requirements for a generation or two.

What needs to be done is reasonably clear. Externally, Pakistan needs to push the World Bank to adhere to its own policies and not be influenced by Indian hectoring or complaints. Internally, Pakistan needs a coherent energy policy that focuses on exploiting local resources and bridging gaps by seeking energy supplies from abroad where necessary. But knowing what needs to be done and doing it are two separate matters.(Dawn)

Gilgit-Baltistan:GBLA strongly condemned resoulution passed by KPK assembly

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Gilgit—Members of Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly have strongly condemned a resolution of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for declaring eight kilometer area of Diamer-Bhasha dam as part of KP and payment of the required compensation. A meeting of the ministers, advisors and members of the GB Assembly held here on Tuesday under the chairmanship of speaker Wazir Beg reviewed in detail the resolution of KPK Assembly and made it clear that Diamer-Bhasha dam was being build in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan and there was no justification for payment of any compensation to KPK.

The meeting formed a five-member committee under provincial minister Bashir Ahmad Khan and comprising Haji Janbaz, Haji Gulbar, Maulana Sarwar Shah and Gul Mehra to meet the concerned officials and convey the reservations and sentiments of Gilgit-Baltistan people. The meeting termed as out of context the resolution of KP Assembly and said not a single inch of the dam was in the territory of KPK and they would not accept the right of any other province on the dam

Gilgit-Baltistan:Unemployeed youth protest for nepotism and corruption in Gilgit

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Gilgit (PT): Around 200 jobless youth protested in Gilgit city, demanding an end to corruption and nepotism at different levels of the GB government. The youth had been mobilized by GB Graduates Association (GBGA).

Speaking at the occasion, the young graduates said that the situation can deteriorate if the government does not bring an end to the corrupt practices.

“The leaders should learn from revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya”, a speaker said, referring to the on-going Arab Spring revolution that has dethroned several dynasties in the Middle East region.

The protesters blocked a road for almost three hours, chanting slogans against the government for failing to ensure transparency in hirings in Agriculture Department.

The protesters dispersed peacefully after meeting with a government official who promised to convey their demands to the higher authorities.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Government plans changes in royalty, resettlement cost formula

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ISLAMABAD (Dawn): The government is considering preparing the formulae for sharing of royalties and resettlement costs of the proposed water reservoirs, including the Diamer-Bhasha dam, in such a manner that the people displaced by the projects benefit most from them.

Although the government has yet to come up with a clear formula on how the royalties and resettlement costs should be shared by the major stakeholders (the federation and provincial governments) the authorities now plan to make the resettled people “the first beneficiaries” of the upcoming projects, according to sources.

These ideas would be deliberated upon in detail during a US-Pak strategic dialogue on water sector reforms and international lending, scheduled to begin on Nov 2 in Islamabad. Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar and US undersecretary Maria Otero will lead their respective teams.

The federal government plans to utilise the forum of Council of Common Interests to suggest constitutional changes to the parliament for approval, the sources said.

A supra-regulatory body, replacing the existing Indus River System Authority, may have to be put in place to deal with all water-related issues, from irrigation to urban uses and from wastewater management to construction of new dams and adoption of new watering techniques, they said.

A case under study is the revenue-sharing arrangements and their implementation in Brazil — considered as a modern satisfactory model — where 6 per cent of gross revenues are allocated to the affected areas, with half going to the provinces and half to the municipalities with affected people.

Pakistan’s experience in Tarbela and Mangla resettlement and profit-sharing has been far from exemplary, although it improved of late in the case of Ghazi Barotha Hydropower Project. While tens of hundreds of the displaced persons from the sites of two dams continue to raise dissatisfaction over resettlement even after four decades, the profits arising out of Tarbela dam have benefited only Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, albeit with continued dissatisfaction in the province and increasing revenue threat to Wapda.

The policy-makers believe that a lacuna in the Constitution that promised profits to the province where power station is located has been one of the major hurdles in implementation of new mega projects because in most of the cases sacrifices of the people displaced by the projects by far outweighed the contribution of power houses.

“The benefits should be directly proportional to the sacrifices and cost-sharing,” a senior government official said, adding the provinces would also be convinced to bear investment costs in cash and kind (in terms of submerged land, displacements and investment contributions) to claim shares in profits or return on investment.

A senior government official said it was very important to ensure that local people and authorities welcome such mega projects which was possible only if there was a modern, transparent and fair approach to sharing royalties with affected provinces or regions and the local people and if there was a strong capacity for effective resettlement.

The fresh thinking has come in the wake of a “huge wish list” submitted by Islamabad to the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) which many development lenders believed ‘was asking for too much’ and ‘if everything was a priority, nothing was a priority.’

The FoDP task force on water sector had advised the government for a rigorous attention to the sequencing of the project priorities, keep in mind the fact that current environment offered Pakistan ‘a limited political capital’ in the world capitals.

The sequencing has, therefore, been set around building of major reservoirs starting with Diamer-Bhasha at a cost of $11 billion, agricultural productivity enhancement at a cost of $1.5 billion, urban water and sanitation improvement at a cost of $1 billion, besides associated projects for flood management and improvement in knowledge base and human resource development.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Red tape and militancy major hurdle in Health Projects in GB and other areas

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Islamabad (ET):More than three-quarters of all foreign-funded projects in the health sector are facing delays, and some may be shut down altogether, threatening essential programmes designed to control diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS.

Documents at the economic affairs division of the finance ministry, made available to The Express Tribune, show that 13 out of the 17 health projects are facing delays. Nearly all of these projects are funded by international donors, including ten by Germany.

Yet, for a variety of reasons, including bureaucratic delays, the government has not been able to utilise the funding available for these projects, many of which are meant to serve the most vulnerable segments of the population, including the militancy-hit tribal areas.

Most of the programmes are geared towards the people living in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Of the $366.4 million available for the health sector, only about $138.7 million, or 37.8%, has been disbursed. Sometimes the issue is red tape on the part of the government, particularly in awarding contracts to vendors. Other times, the militancy gets in the way of officials being able to go over to the areas they are meant to serve, particularly in the tribal areas. Not even one project was deemed to have been satisfactorily completed.

For instance, the government received a $77.7 million subsidised loan from the World Bank for the Third Partnership for Polio Eradication project and raised another $42 million in financing for the programme in June this year. Yet Pakistan is one of only four countries in the world where polio still exists and polio cases are rapidly rising in Balochistan and Fata, raising international alarm.

A Germany-funded project, Provision of Basic Health Equipment, initiated in 2006 is going to lapse on December 30 this year but so far only 2.3% of the total cost, or $170,000, has been disbursed. Similarly, HIV/AIDS blood safety project commenced in 2006 would lapse in 2013 but no money is released against an allocation of $9.2 million.

Not all of the delays are caused by the government, however. Sometimes, the donors can be slow off the mark as well. For instance, another Germany-funded programme, the Northern Areas Health project, is also facing delays. The project agreement was signed in 2007, but has yet to even get a firm commitment of funds.

The Tuberculosis Control Programme, initiated in 2004, is likely to end in December with only 66% of the money allocated for the project actually being spent. The Health Infrastructure Project will end at the same time and has so far only received 39% of its funding. The Safe Blood Transformation Project, signed in 2009, has not received any money yet while a health care project in Fata, initiated in 2009, has got only 1.5% of its funding.

Not all may be lost, however. Officials from the World Health Organisation point out that donors can often agree to extend the dates of the projects that are facing delays.

“It should be noted that even if government agencies are not able to fully implement projects by the December deadline, donors generally agree to extend the project validity beyond this date,” said Dr Guido Sabatinelli, the WHO representative in Pakistan.

Sabatinelli, however, said that he was speaking broadly about aid projects in general.

Gilgit-Baltistan:GB legislative assembly rejected K-P’s claim over part of the structure of Diamer-Bhasha Dam

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GILGIT (ET): Existing tensions between Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) have increased over the controversy of the Diamer-Bhasha dam, with both sides claiming rights to the dam.

G-B legislative assembly members rejected K-P’s claim over part of the structure on Tuesday and decided to inform the federal government about “encroachment” through “proper channels”.

“K-P’s claim over some eight kilometres of land in Diamer is baseless and so, is rejected,” the lawmakers decided in an informal meeting chaired by the G-B legislative assembly speaker.

Members of the G-B assembly said that the K-P assembly had recently passed a resolution claiming land in Diamer. According to members, the K-P assembly also demanded equal compensation for the people of Kohistan likely to be affected by the construction of the proposed dam.

Speaker Wazir Baig formed a five-member committee belonging to lawmakers hailing from Diamer district to look into the matter, a lawmaker told The Express Tribune.

The main purpose of taking up the matter with the federal government and discussing it in a formal session of the G-B assembly was to avoid a direct confrontation with the K-P government.

Nationalist leader Nawaz Naji told the meeting in a controversial statement that historically, Kohistan, Shinaki and Chitral were also part of G-B and therefore, G-B could claim rights over these areas as well.