Gilgit-Baltistan: DBD is the lifeline for Pakistan

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Rawalpindi (Dawn): THE acceptance of Pakistan’s claim that the Indian Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project (KHEP) would obstruct the flow of water of the Neelum River in Pakistan-administered Kashmir by the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) has not been digested by the Indian water strategists. The ground-breaking ceremony of Diamer-Bhasha dam (DBD) in the Gilgit-Baltistan provided an ideal opportunity to settle their score. The reason for objecting to Diamer-Bhasha dam is a stale argument that the project is located in disputed territory and can cause floods in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

This politically-driven defence by Indian water authorities is totally unjust because Pakistan seems to be slipping into a category of a country the United Nations defines as ‘water scarce’. With the population rapidly expanding, water is running out very quickly.

Estimates suggest that while Pakistan has only achieved 11 per cent storage capacity, India on its allocated eastern rivers has accomplished 52 per cent.

In order to help resolve the acute power shortage in the coming years, Pakistan’s ‘Water Vision-2016’ envisaged the need to built Diamer-Bhasha dam first on a priority basis was a welcome move. The country has an energy deficit of approximately 5,000 MW — only producing around two-thirds of its energy requirements.

The Diamer-Bhasha dam would have an installed capacity of 4,500 MW, with a total cost estimated at $12.6 billion and a storage capacity of 7.3 MAF. The dam would ensure food and water security, besides extending life of the Tarbela Dam by 35 years and would help control flood damage to the country.

The Indian external strike against Pakistan is not restricted to just objecting to the project, rather it has an all-round and all-encompassing strategy to destabilise Pakistan. India is also exploiting the boundary dispute between Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa vis-à-vis royalty issue. This caused a delay of almost four years.

However, the issue of royalty earned from the hydroelectric power generation at the dam between the two provinces  will be resolved. Likewise, the issue of resettlement of 28,650 affected people has been settled.

For Pakistan, the Diamer-Bhasha dam is the lifeline for its tottering economy. The outfit may not be a panacea for all the economic woes, but it could be a very critical link in Pakistan’s energy and water requirements. Therefore, Pakistan needs to push the World Bank to adhere to its own policies and not be influenced by Indian hectoring or complaints.


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