Financing dams

Majority of people, by and large, expect objectivity, balanced style of reasoning from senior journalists and column writers. But sometime the element of subjectivity creeps in the comments of media persons, while using their pen on burning issues of national importance. A staff member of a leading English daily news paper, which was founded in pre-partition era in Delhi, criticized the launching of Diamer Basha and Mohamand dams fund by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar. In sharp critique of this historic initiative, he commented, “Public Finance is not a joke.”

This sort of twisted angling either speaks about the writer’s lack of knowledge about the national spirit behind the construction of dams and ECNEC decisions in May for the conservation of water resources or reveals particular agenda setting by him. Before publication of that write-up almost all likely options of financing had been analysed in these columns in addition to the donations to the dams fund by the people and Pakistani Diaspora living abroad.

A befitting reply to the smokescreen being created about the financing of these dams came from Chairman WAPDA Lieutenant General (Retd) Muzammil Hussain. Speaking to media after the second meeting of Implementation Committee of Diamer Basha and Mohamand Dams (ICBDM) appointed by the Supreme Court, he said Pakistan is seeking up to $ 2 billion from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Swiss Bank besides imposing a special surcharge a special surcharge on electricity consumption to meet funding needs of the dams. Chairman WAPDA gave an optimistic picture of fund raising campaign and said that it has received a welcome response from the people that has so far donated Rs. 260 million. He said that the country is facing a difficult water situation and all measures are being taken to start work on reservoirs and implement National Water Policy.

Muzammil Hussain told that a financing structure has been presented to the Chief Justice of Pakistan. He elaborated an amount of $ 1.5-2 billion is required from external resources and the authorities are in touch with AIIB and Swiss Bank to arrange these funds. He said the sub-committee on financing of dams would make recommendations about the possibility of imposing nominal surcharge on electricity consumption to meet any local funding shortfall on the pattern of Neelum-Jhelum surcharge. He deplored that international lenders had declined to finance Diamer Basha project after 12 years of engagements. Responding to a question Chairman WAPDA said issues of refinancing, payments of resettlements and dispute among different local tribes are delaying the construction of this dam.

The bitter and lingering political controversy about Kalabagh dam and lack of commitment on the part of ruling political leadership may have shied away the international lending agencies to finance Basha Dam. The informative article of Syed Akhtar Ali former member energy Planning Commission, published in an English daily newspaper on July 2, reveals about the World Bank financing interest in 2160 megawatt first stage Dasu hydroelectric project. If the concerned government authorities succeed in getting finances from AIIB and Swiss Bank then the international lending institutions including World Ban and Asian Development Bank will also come forward to extend financial assistance for Diamer Basha dam.

 

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