Islamabad - USAID has approached the Federal government after the Water and Power Development Authority refused to share the full study documents of the Bhasha Hydro project with the agency, it is learnt reliably here yesterday.

The United State Aid Agency, USAID has approached the Federal Finance Minister for the provision of the detailed engineering study and feasibility report of the Bhasha dam, official sources told The Nation. The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) has shared, some documents, with USAID but not the complete studies, the source said.

The source said that now the federal minister for finance has written to the planning commission and WAPDA regarding the development, the source said.

The planning commission has nothing to do with detailed engineering study, feasibility report or social safeguard study, the source said adding that the commission only endorsed the third party validation of these documents and the documents is owned by WAPDA.

However the source said that the planning commission also supports the stand of WAPDA for not conducting fresh studies of the Bhasha dam, the source said. If the WAPDA’s study didn’t match with USAID study what is going to be the fate of the project, the source asked.

Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a roller compacted concrete (RCC) dam on the river Indus situated near a place called “Bhasha” in Gilgit-Baltistan. Upon completion, Dam would generate 4,500 megawatts of electricity, store 8.5 million acre feet of water, live storage of 6.4 million acre feet, extend the life of Tarbela Dam by 35 years, and control flood damage by the River Indus downstream during high floods. The dam will have a height of 272 meters spillway with fourteen 14 gates each 11.5 m x 16.24 m. In 2011, the estimated cost of the project was $11.19 billion but now the cost has jumped to $14 billion.

The source said that the Planning Commission is already against the idea of conducting second feasibility of the Bhasha Dam, without the prior commitment of funding for the project from the lenders, saying it is waste of time and will further increase the estimated cost of the project.

“Earlier the government has consulted us regarding the second feasibility of the Bhasha Hydropower project, by the USAID, and the commission has said no to the idea,” the source said. If the USAID or any other lender can make a commitment for funding of the project, it is well and good, otherwise doing feasibility is nothing but just a futile exercise which will cause delay in the implementation of the project for another couple of years and will escalate its total cost, the source informed.

The social safeguard study has already been conducted with the help of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the source said and added that earlier the bank didn’t fund the project but this time the commitment should not be verbal.

If the USAID wants they can review the already completed feasibility study and can make the desired changes to it, as it can be done in three to four months time, while the new feasibility study will delay the projects for another two to three years, the source added.

The official said the pre-feasibility study of the project had been completed few years back by a well reputed international firm but the US wanted the feasibility study of international standards and parameters.

The government should move beyond the rhetoric and start physical work on the Bhasha dam project, the source said. Instead of waiting for the lenders, and wasting time on studies the government should direct resources from other unnecessary or less necessary projects towards the most important project, the source added.

Experts are of the opinion that if the country fail to construct big water reservoir, like Bhasha in the next eight to ten years you are going to lose the fertile land of Punjab and Sindh as the farmers will be unable to cultivate water intensive crops such as sugarcane and rice.

WAPDA’s spokesman, Rana Abid, was contacted and he asked for the written questions. On his demand queries were emailed regarding the story to him but despite the passage of 10 days no response came from him.