The government looks set to begin work on the Dasu power project and is expected to approach the World Bank to get funding for this mega project, with a total estimated cost of Rs 486 billion. Ishaq Dar is busy preparing his best sales-pitch for the trip to the US in the coming weeks, but here at home, confusion surrounds the project and what it actually is. Contrary to popular belief, Dasu ‘dam’ is not a dam at all, but a hydro power project. It will have no reservoir of its own and will rely on a dam upstream (one which does not yet exist) to give it sufficient water for power generation. The Diamer-Bhasha dam once (read if) constructed, will fulfill this role. Questions surround both projects, and their reliance on each other to solve the energy crisis is not comforting in the slightest.
The first phase of the Dasu project, which will take an estimated time of 5 years, involves raising river embankments to increase the level of water flowing through its channels, so that the machinery installed in the future has enough juice to run. The misconceptions of the public are maintained to give the false impression of the government and WAPDA building dams to stabilize water and power levels in the country.
The PML-N’s claims of over 2000 MW of power generation created though this project in phase 1 have been refuted by experts, who believe that the real number will be only as high as 1000 MW. The Neelam-Jhelum power project, very similar to Dasu, is not likely to help as much as was expected, considering that the water levels are getting substantially lower due to India rerouting channels upstream from Kishenganga. Why was this not accounted for when the idea was pitched by the government? Mega projects, due to the amount of money spent should not fail on such a colossal scale if the country is to realistically solve its problems. So much is at stake. The energy crisis, and the incoming water crisis aside, Pakistan cannot afford to build more mega projects that are completely useless. The government needs to establish how Dasu is different, and how it will reach its energy potential. Let us be clear on one thing: Dasu is not a dam. Pakistan has not built a single dam in forty years. And since the PML-N has been content with allowing misinformation to be propagated regarding the subject, demanding clarity is imperative.