Kick starting Diamer-Bhasha project
By Engr Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui
ground-breaking ceremony of Diamer-Bhasha project is
scheduled for next month while a sum of Rs15 billion has
been earmarked this year to finance dam`s pre-construction
Work on construction of housing colonies and facilities
required for Wapda and contractors`staff in Thore valley,
district Diamer has been initiated. Acquisition of priority
land is in progress.
The dam, located on the Indus River, is to be completed by
2019-20 as per revised schedule approved by ECNEC at a cost
of $8.5 billion. The project would help in resolving major
issues of food security and shortage of electricity.
According to international experts, Tarbela, Mangla and
Chashma reservoirs have lost about five MAF cumulative water
capacity, which may further reach to total six MAF next
year, almost equal to original combined capacity of Mangla
and Chashma reservoirs.
The emerging situation would jeopardise sustainability of
irrigated agriculture, in spite of completion of Mangla Dam
Raising project. Diamer-Bhasha Dam will impound as high as
15 per cent of the annual river flow and ensure availability
of 6.4 MAF annual surface water for irrigation supplies
during low-flow periods.
Its hydroelectric power station would generate average
18,097 GWh of electricity annually. Timely construction of
Diamer-Bhasha Dam–a mega dam to be built after almost four
decades– is therefore of strategic nature and badly needed.
The project envisages major infrastructure building that
would lead to overall socio-economic uplift.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has recently assured
technical and financial assistance for the project and its
modalities are being worked out. The bank`s pre-condition
for national consensus has been met as the Council of Common
Interests has approved the project on July 18, 2010.
Indications are that $2.3 billion would be released by the
ADB during 2012 calendar year. In a recent development, the
government has also asked the US to include project in the
Kerry Lugar Law funding plan.
There are positive signs for funding from Kuwait, other
friendly countries, and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
The main issue, however, is the government`s inability to
arrange counterpart funds in local currency. A total of
Rs420 billion is to be arranged locally for the project
during a period of seven years or so. For this purpose, the
ECNEC allowed Wapda in January to raise Rs20 billion from
the market through issuance of bonds. Earlier in 2006-07, it
had raised Rs16 billion.
On its completion, the dam would set another record (after
Tarbela) for Pakistan in global hydropower engineering. It
will be the world`s highest roller compacted concrete dam,
with main dam`s maximum height of 272 meter. Termed as one
of the largest and most costly dam in the world planned
today, its total financial outlay would exceed $13 billion
taking into consideration additional cost of compensation
and resettlement to the project-affectees and development of
In fact, there are numerous challenges in executing the
project that has complex and critical characteristics.
Construction of dam would inundate 31 villages consisting of
about 4,100 houses affecting a population of some 35,000,
besides submerging 1,500 acres of fertile agricultural land.
Another 25,000 acres land would be impounded under the dam
reservoir. The project would cover an area of over 200
square kilometers, according to design.
These serious impacts are to be adequately addressed to and
mitigated by the government, at an additional cost of Rs60
billion, before commencing construction on dam project
itself. For the purpose, a “citizen damage compensation
fund” has been established for which China has contributed
$10 million, whereas the World Bank has committed $125
million and the US may also contribute $190 million. Under
these arrangements, payment of compensation for land
acquisition is in process.
The project would extend 100 km upstream of dam site up to
Raikot Bridge on the KKH. This will require relocation and
re-gradation of 310 km of the KKH, including construction of
a new bridge at Thakot, District Battagram, besides building
of numerous approach roads. Furthermore, road-network from
Havelian to the site will also be upgraded, at a total cost
of another Rs4.5 billion, which is essential for
transportation of heavy machinery required to be mobilised
by the contractors at site.
There are many engineering challenges for the project to be
located in a mountainous, high seismic risk area. The two
underground powerhouses will be built, each power house to
have six generating units of 375 MW each, with a total
capacity of 2,250 MW, aggregating to 4,500 MW power
Putting high-voltage transmission lines from the site to
national grid would also pose a serious challenge. Project`s
detailed engineering completed in March 2008 and
prequalification documents are ready since then for issuance
to prospective bidders for obtaining technical and
commercial proposals, separately for five different lots of
tender for the works and supplies of equipment.
The government needs to take effective steps to remove
impediments to complete the project on schedule at the
currently estimated cost.
(Engr Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui is retired Chairman of State
Courtesy: The DAWN