Despite the looming water crisis, construction of big dams remained at the bottom of priorities of the ruling political leadership. Starting construction work on Diamer Basha dam and Mohamand dam, officially named Munda dam, was delayed for over 15 years. Consequently, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had to take the initiative for immediate construction of two dams. The Supreme Court in its short order passed on Wednesday issued directives to the government for the construction Diamer Basha and Mohmand Dams, and appealed to the general public including Pakistanis residing abroad to donate for the cause.
The apex court formed a committee under airmanship of Water and Power development Authority Chief to monitor the progress of the construction work. It also directed that an account be opened with the SC, s registrar in which all donations will be collected. All those donating for the cause will not be asked of their sources of income. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar initiated donation process by announcing Rs. 1million donation for these dams construction.
The four-member special bench ordered Chairman WAPDA led committee to present a report after completing the formalities within three weeks. Members of the committee include Additional Secretary Budget Finance Division, Joint Secretary Water Resources Division, Senior Chief (Water) Planning Division Chief secretary Gilgit Baltistan, Senior Member Board of Revenue KPK and Additional Chief secretary (Development) KPK.
Last week the CJP said that all stakeholders have agreed to the construction of two dams in the country with money recovered from loans defaulters. He also said that several of 222 individuals and companies who have got their loans written off had agreed to returning 75 percent of outstanding loans as per formula suggested by bench that hearing this case.
Earlier in April, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had given approval for the construction of Diamer Basha dam, with water storage facility only, at an initial cost of Rs. 625 billion to be funded through local resources after international financial institutions showed reluctance and China made irrational demands under CPEC framework financing. An amount of Rs. 18 billion has been proposed in the current fiscal year budget. Likewise, ECNEC had approved Mohmand dam hydro power project at a cost of Rs. 303 billion.
Local rupee component required for the construction of Diamer Basha dam is Rs. 472 billion and foreign exchange component of Rs.153 billion. The dam has a gross storage capacity of 8.1 million acre feet (MAF) and live storage capacity of 64 MAF. Power generation potential of the dam is 4500 megawatts. Mohamand dam has gross storage capacity of 1290 MAF and live storage capacity of 0.676 MAF. Financial allocations for this hydropower project have not been reflected in the budget for the current fiscal year. The project has the power generation capacity of 740 megawatt.
The fast tracking of these mega projects from domestic resources will, hopefully, attract the financial assistance from the international lending agencies like World Bank and Asian development Bank. It is pertinent to mention that bidding for 2160 megawatt first stage of Dasu hydro-electric power project under World Bank financing was lower by more than 50 percent in comparison with similar projects that are being executed with Chinese loans under the umbrella of CPEC. The country needs augmentation and conservation of water resources and availability of hydropower at a competitive cost. The people of Pakistan are grateful to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for this bold initiative of directing the government to immediately start construction of two big dams, which will enhance water storage capacity to 45 days and add 5140 megawatt inexpensive power to the national grid. The completion of these projects will be instrumental in bringing the average power tariff down, which is now highest in the world and has hit hard the competitiveness of the economy.