Despite the coronavirus pandemic, China and Pakistan are stepping up efforts on committed projects focusing on cooperation in industrial development, agriculture and the improvement of people's livelihoods. 

Gwadar Pro reported on Wednesday that the Diamer-Bhasha Dam and Power Project, nicknamed the "Three Gorges Project" joins a long list of bilateral cooperation efforts between the two countries.

The construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam is of great strategic significance for improving Pakistan's water security and sustainable development, Wang Zhihua, economic and commercial minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy was quoted as having said that a dam construction fund was specifically set up, with full support at government and the public level.

"The Chinese company will extend and share all available technical experience with its Pakistani partner for the project. The dam is scheduled to be completed by 2029. During the construction of the project, 16,500 jobs will be directly created," Wang said.

The contract for this project was signed between Chinese energy firm PowerChina and Pakistan's Frontier Works Organization, with a value of 442 billion rupees ($2.75 billion). The project will be built in two phases.

The project is currently in the initiation stage, with focus on supplementary surveys and organizational planning. The construction of the camp at the early stage has not been seriously affected by the pandemic. PowerChina will share its experience in dam construction and large-scale project construction organisation, Wang added.

"The Diamer-Bhasha Dam being the third largest dam in Pakistan - will achieve multipurpose objectives. The people of Pakistan are grateful to China, which has once again decided to help Pakistan secure and ensure its strategic water security in the 21st century," said Syed Hasan Javed, Director of the Chinese Studies Center of Excellence at the National University of Science and Technology.

"The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is beyond any controversy, being constructed by two sovereign nations. The people of Pakistan are deeply grateful to China for undertaking several energy projects, both under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as through contracted projects like this one, which have greatly reduced the electricity shortage in the country," he added.

"China has an excellent record of building huge dams not only for itself, but for other developing countries. The Pakistani authorities have completed all preparatory work related to land acquisition, resettlement, financial and operational mobilization, and the work has begun at the site," Javed said.

Referring to media report that slandered the dam project as another "debt trap" set up by China, Hasan Javed said that Pakistan's external debt is roughly $111 billion out of a GDP (calculated at market price) of $265 billion as of June 2020. 

Almost 75 percent of Pakistan's debt is owed to international financial institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, Paris Club and Asian Development Bank.

"The total amount of Chinese loans does not exceed 10 percent at $11 billion. Pakistan can take care of it. The propaganda of China laying a 'debt trap' is guided by malicious intentions of detractors. If you see the external debt to GDP ratio, Pakistan is not among the most highly indebted nations of the world," he added.