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Paltry allocation for Bhasha Dam in budget

The proposed giant water reservoir, Diamer Bhasha Dam, which will produce 4,500MW of electricity apart from serving irrigation purposes, has still got no firm foreign funding commitment, budget documents show.

However, Neelam-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP) in Azad Kashmir has substantial foreign funding, almost half its cost. Similarly, the procurement and manufacture of 202 new design passenger railways coaches has been earmarked Rs5.7 billion with the foreign component of China of Rs5 billion.

Likewise, the Hassanabdal-Havelian-Mansehra Expressway, which will be linked with the Karakorum Highway leading to China, has been allotted Rs750 million. It will be built at a cost of Rs46 billion with Rs39.7 billion as foreign component.

A paltry allocation of Rs13.7 billion was made for Diamer Bhasha Dam in the new fiscal, 2012-13, which depicted the extremely slow pace of the project, which will cost some $12 billion.

Of this allocation, a sum of Rs7.7 billion has been earmarked for land acquisition while an amount of Rs6 billion kept for other purposes. In the new budget, the NJHP has been allotted Rs26.8 billion out of which Rs21.8 is foreign funding. This project will cost Rs84 billion having foreign aid of Rs46.6 billion.

Last year, the federal budget earmarked Rs15 billion for the Diamer Bhasha Dam. Of this allocation, the federal government provided Rs5 billion while the remaining Rs10 billion were arranged by the Water & Power Development Authority (Wapda) outside the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

The Rs15 billion allocation was also meant for acquisition of land and to build other infrastructure including a residential colony before starting the construction of the dam.

Much prior to the budget announcement, a committee comprising officials of the ministries of Kashmir Affairs & Northern Areas, and Water & Power, and Planning Commission had finalised an allocation of Rs40 billion. This amount was to be disbursed in the three years among the displaced people.

The federal government has made the new allocation for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam at a time when Pakistan is plagued by severe power outages, fomenting violence in different cities. Originally, the project was scheduled to start two years back.

Pakistan still expects funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The people of Northern Areas have some objections to the demarcation of the site and say that the land over which the proposed powerhouse will be installed is located in the Northern Areas, but the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa claims that the powerhouse is situated in its jurisdiction.

The dam will be built on Indus River, about 300 km upstream of Tarbela Dam and about 40 km downstream of Chilas Town. Having height of 272 meters, it would be the highest roller compacted concrete dam in the world. The dam will have 8.1 MAF gross while 6.4 MAF live water storage capacity.

The dam will not only provide a lifeline to Tarbela Dam by increasing its water storage capacity for minimum 40 years, but also generate energy through installed capacity of 4,500MW. It would help reduce dependence on thermal power. Micro Seismic Monitoring System has been installed to monitor seismic activities in the project area while meteorological station is being established at the site.

Officials say there has been significant escalation of land acquisition rates by the Diamer Chilas district administration from the original estimates incorporated of 2008.

There is a staggering increase in the value of property by over 130 percent in one year. The funds required for land acquisition would go up if the compulsory acquisition compensation of 15 percent over the value assessed by the deputy commissioner is factored in. Money will be paid as compensation for households, constructed property and trees and for resettlement of affected persons and development of model villages.

In November, 2008, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council gave the go-ahead to the project, which is plagued by constant delays mainly due to shortage of foreign funding.

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