During a meeting with G-B Chief Minister Muhammad Khalid Khursheed on Thursday, Wapda Chairman Muzammil Hussain lauded the region for its continuous support for the construction of the massive Diamer-Bhasha dam. Hydro development affairs and matters concerning the confidence-building measures (CBMs) undertaken by Wapda in the project area for socio-economic development of locals were discussed extensively in the meeting.
Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a concreted-filled gravity dam, in the preliminary stages of construction, on the River Indus between Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer district in Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan administered Kashmir.
Hussain bought to attention the several facets of CBMs that were being executed at a cost of Rs78.5 billion in the project area. Development initiatives under CBMs would not only provide the local population with the latest facilities of health care, education and infrastructure but would also help alleviate poverty by generating employment opportunities, he added.
Chairman Wapda also emphasized that the natives of the project area would be prioritized in jobs according to the criteria laid down for the purpose.
Addressing the meeting, G-B chief minister praised the efforts put in by Wapda for the resettlement of the affectees of the Diamer Bhasha Project. He also applauded the Water and Power Development Authority for working towards the development of the project area and ensuring the well-being of the people belonging to the region. He expressed contentment over the fulfillment of the development initiatives under CBMs and was hopeful that the schemes would revolutionize the landscape of the area and usher in a positive change in the lives of its natives.
Gilgit Baltistan’s Chief Minister guaranteed full support to the Wapda Chairman for the timely completion of the dam.
Locals protest denial of jobs in the energy project
Though Wapda claims that the people hailing from the region are its priority when it comes to providing employment opportunities, the residents believe otherwise. On 27th January 2020, activists of political parties and local people staged a sit-in outside Wapda’s office in Chilas against the denial to the local population in Diamer-Bhasha hydropower project.
The protest was arranged by Graduate Alliance Diamer, demanding the granting of rights to the affectees of the power project. The protestors claimed that they have sacrificed their homes and land for the Diamer-Bhasha dam and asked for the appointment of the locals in grade 1 to 16 posts in the dam project. They stressed that the people of Diamer and Gilgit Baltistan should be prioritized in the appointments from grade 17 and above.
The protestors also asked for the establishment of Diamer Technical Institution, an engineering university and upgradation of regional medical hospital, Chilas, to a medical college.
The locals called off the protest after their demands regarding appointment of candidates from Diamer district on posts from grade 1 to 16 were accepted after a meeting with Wapda and the district administration officials.
Diamer-Bhasha Dam-Crucial for Pakistan’s progress
Since PTI came into power, it has been fixated on exploiting the the untapped 50,000 MW hydel power generation potential to achieve self-sufficiency in the energy sector. After kickstarting the construction work of the much-anticipated Mohmand Dam in May 2019, the government is now focused on building the strategically significant Diamer-Bhasha dam which is expected to be a game changer for the country.
In July 2020, PM Khan kicked off the construction for the project which had been stalled by the successive governments for the past 40 years. Diamer Bhasha Dam is regarded as one of the most vital projects for ensuring water sustainability in Pakistan. Pakistan, an agro-based economy, heavily dependent upon its agricultural produce for exports cannot afford a scarcity of water. The South Asian nation sticks its hopes on the Diamer Bhasha dam to ensure food and energy security of Pakistan.
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This multibillion project aims to generate 4500 megawatts of cheaper and greener hydel power and would also help create 16000 jobs besides giving a boost to power, steel, cement and construction industries. The dam will have a gross water storage capacity of 8.1-million-acre feet (MAF) to irrigate 1.23 million acres of additional land. Moreover, with installed power generation capacity of 4500 megawatts (MW), this project will provide more than 18 billion units per annum to the National Grid.
The project is being executed by a Chinese state-run company, China Power along with the Pakistani Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). The government signed a contract of Rs442 billion with China Power for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam. The dam project with a total financial outlay of about Rs1,406.5 billion would be completed in 2028.
China power holds the majority of share in the project. It controls 70 per cent and the FWO, a commercial arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces, has 30 per cent share in the consortium.
The total financial outlay, according to Chairman WAPDA, includes land acquisition and resettlement, confidence-building measures for social uplift of the local people, construction of dam and powerhouses.