Gilgit-Baltistan: ADB Reluctant to fund DBD

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ISLAMABAD (DT): The Asian Development Bank (ADB) seems reluctant to pledge financial assistance for the billion-dollar Diamer-Bhasha hydropower mega project having generation capacity of 4,500 megawatts (MW), because of loopholes detected in its construction including the disputed area between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region of eight kilometres in Diamer village.

A senior official of the Ministry of Water and Power on condition of anonymity informed Daily Times that Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) could not satisfy Asian Development Bank officials, while briefing over Diamer-Bhasha hydropower project with estimated cost of $12 billion.

The ADB Consultation Mission, headed by the Director Energy Division Rune Stroem met WAPDA Chairman Shakeel Durani on Wednesday to discuss matters relating to financing Diamer-Bhasha Dam project accompanied with experts from the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID).

Sources further revealed that claims of power managers regarding construction of the billion-dollar project, which was expected to start in November went into delay because of insufficient funds as well as not to resolve the issue of disputed land between both neighbouring provinces KP and GB.

The federal government is yet to resolve the differences between two neighbouring provinces GB and KP over the land dispute of Diamer village likely to cause delay in 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha hydropower mega project of $12 billion.

Legislators of both provincial governments locked horns over the land dispute of eight kilometres area of Diamer village by tabling the resolutions in their respected assemblies, however the role of the federal government was seen nowhere.

With a storage capacity of about eight million acre feet and projected electricity generation of 4,500 MW, Diamer-Bhasha would top both Tarbela and Mangla dams, whose storage capacities have fallen drastically due to silting over the years, while federal government claimed that the said project would take eight years to complete.

On the other hand, World Bank (WB) has already refused to fund the Diamer-Bhasha Dam due to, what they claim, is the controversial legal status of GB territory.

Sources further said that due to objections raised by India over the legal reforms introduced in GB, the World Bank had refused to finance the project, adding that over $30 billion to $40 billion would be required in the next 15 years to build dams in the country for generating electricity and for increasing water storage capacity.

According to communiqué issued by WAPDA, Durani said that WAPDA is implementing several projects to cope with the increasing demand of water and electricity in the country. Among the projects, he claimed that 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam is vital, as this mega project would usher in accelerated socio-economic development in Pakistan. He further said that WAPDA looks forward to a close cooperation of the international financial institutions, the ADB in particular, to implement this mega project.

ADB Director Energy Division, appreciating the progress made so far on Diamer-Bhasha Dam project, said that the technical preparation of the project is quite impressive. Since the project is a major one, there are challenges as well. The issues relating to resettlement of the affectees and the environment need further study with international consultants. However, we hope to tackle these challenges in close coordination with each other, he added.

During the briefing, the ADB mission was informed that the $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a multi-purpose project with the objectives to store water for irrigation, mitigate floods and generate low-cost and environment-friendly hydel electricity. On completion, the project will store 8.1 million acre feet (MAF) of water besides generating 4,500 MW electricity. The project will add about 20 billion units of electricity annually to the national grid. The annual benefits of the project have been estimated at about $2.3 billion, it was further told.

The mission was informed that a sum of Rs 18 billion has been allocated in Public Sector Development Programme for the project during the current fiscal year. As many as 1,260 acres of land has so far been acquired for construction of WAPDA offices, contractor’s camp, colonies and infrastructure in the project area. The delegation was also briefed about the resettlement and financial plans of the project.

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