–PM kickstarts construction of much-delayed; dam to become operational in 2028
–Says project will generate jobs for people of Gilgit-Baltistan; vows to build more water reservoirs on rivers
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to build the “biggest dam” in the country’s history as he kicked off construction of the much-delayed Diamer-Bhasha dam on Wednesday.
A joint venture of China Power and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), the eight million acre-feet (MAF) reservoir with 272-metre height will be the tallest roller compact concrete (RCC) dam in the world. It will have a spillway, 14 gates and five outlets for flushing out silt. The project with a total financial outlay of about Rs1,406.5bn would be completed in 2028.
Addressing a public gathering in Chilas, Gilgit-Baltistan, the prime minister said that the dam will also benefit the people of GB.
He vowed that with this project, the government was going towards building the “biggest dam in Pakistan’s history”. “This will be our third big dam. China has made around 5,000 big dams, but have a total of about 80,000 dams. From this, you can gauge the massive mistakes we have made in the past [by not building new reservoirs],” he said.
“The decision to build this dam was taken 50 years ago. There can be no better site for constructing a dam, it is a natural dam. Forty, fifty years ago this was decided, and work on the project has begun today. This is one of the biggest reasons why we haven’t progressed,” PM Imran observed.
He stressed that nations only progress when they think of the future and when they invest in their resources, uplifting those segments of society that have been left behind.
“The decisions made in the ’90s to generate electricity using imported furnace oil affected our current account deficit. When there is pressure on foreign exchange, [the country’s] economic conditions start deteriorating.”
The premier maintained that the government will now move towards building more dams on rivers, which will lessen pressure on foreign exchange and allow the country to generate its own fuel.
He added that generating electricity from water instead of furnace oil or coal will also prevent negatively impacting global warming and climate change. “The benefits are dual. We won’t have to import fuel and it won’t affect our climate negatively.”
Imran said that the project would also generate job opportunities for people living in the region. “I am familiar with GB and have visited Chilas on multiple occasions in the past 30 years. I am well aware of how much the area depends on tourism and how much they need tourism during the summer months.”
In a tweet earlier in the day, Lt Gen (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa, special assistant to the prime minister on information, said that the project will generate 4,500MW of hydel power and provide at least 16,000 jobs.
The premier said that he will speak to the GB chief minister to prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) for resurrecting the tourism industry that has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We can learn from the world, tourism is slowly resuming. It won’t be the same as it was before the pandemic hit, but we can start opening it slowly and start developing SOPs for it,” he said, adding that help will also be extended by the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) in this regard.
Imran added that the project was a huge opportunity for the people of Chilas and GB. Addressing the people of GB, he said: “We didn’t increase your budget out of obligation. It is our government’s policy to prioritise those areas that have been left behind.
“Thus far, our development has been restricted to a few cities. We will be left behind until we spend on uplifting less-developed areas.”
Therefore, the government is investing in GB, merged districts and Balochistan, he said. He concluded his speech by congratulating the people of GB. “Time will prove that this dam will change the fortune of the people of GB, especially those living in Chilas.”
Earlier in the day, Imran had visited the site of the dam along with Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, where they were briefed on the mega project.