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Bhasha Dam delay can cause priceless damage

Diamer Bhasha Dam was planned to be constructed in 2020 and is located in Gilgit-Baltistan. Now, the Government has decided to delay it for further 17 years which means the dam will be working in 2037. Delay in this mega project that has strategic importance, can convert the water crisis into an existential threat to Pakistan.

The authorities have ignored the imminent threat of water shortage and floods. Wapda is already working on the project. This change in time frame can be termed as a strategic mistake being committed by the concerned departments and it will leave Pakistan in a famine-like situation due to shortage of water. On the other hand, the country will be a target of catastrophic floods.

Pakistan is facing severe energy crisis. Shortage of electricity supply to industries is causing economic fall back while shortage to domestic usage is causing time wastage and routine delays.

It is stated by relevant authorities that before completion of Bhasha Dam, the Dasu Hydropower Project in the downstream will cater to the needs of power base load while after commissioning of the dam, it will work as a peaking facility in view of the guaranteed flows of the Bhasha Dam. Main reason of sudden change in decision is said to be lack of funds as World Bank will be providing funds for Dasu project, not for Bhasha Dam.

Building of Bhasha Dam is being deferred at a time when Pakistan enters into acute level of ‘physical water scarcity’. The per capita water availability per year in Pakistan, which is located in an arid climate zone, is presently estimated at 1007 cubic meter which will further reduce to 999 cubic meters with the advent of 2015. In the year 2037, when the Bhasha Dam is expected to be commissioned, water availability will touch rock bottom of 711 cubic meters per capita, which is below than the shortage of water prevailing in African countries. Population of Pakistan will be around 262 million against present population of 185 million. Will we be able to feed this population with scarce water resources?

Wapda’s own assessment states that if Diamer Bhasha Dam was being constructed before 2010, it could have saved the flood devastation amounting to $10 billion.

Basha Dam will also support the storage capacity of Tarbela and Mangla dam. It is estimated that by 2025, the Tarbela Dam will be silted about half the original capacity, slashing its water shortage capacity significantly. In this scenario, deferring or slowing down Bhasha will have detrimental consequences on water availability in the coming years. Seasonal water storage is number one benefit of Bhasha which Dasu cannot provide.

The construction of Dasu Hydro power Project ahead of Bhasha Dam will further complicate problems associated with the gigantic logistic issues involving up gradation of Karakoram Highway (KKH). Leave alone requirement of KKH expansion and construction of numerous bridges over a stretch of hundreds of kilometers, the lake of Dasu Hydropower will submerge about 50-km-long stretch of KKH, further delaying the work on Bhasha Dam in the upstream.

As government is not able to get funds from World Bank, therefore Government has now planned to conduct Road show in US to raise money for Diamer Bhasha Dam. Somehow or the other, Government has to arrange funds for Diamer-Basha Dam and has to stop the delay in Basha Dam project as the electricity shortfall in Pakistan reached 4,760 megawatt, while on completion, Diamer-Bhasha Dam would produce 4,500 megawatts of electricity through environmentally clean hydro-power generation.

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