It is really sad to know that the request of Wapda Chairman Raghib Shah for funds to execute the Diamir-Bhasha Dam and other hydel power projects has gone abegging. According to a press report, Mr Shah has lamented that no-one is willing to come forward and make the required amount of money available for them. It sounds strange as well; for the country has been passing through a long phase of electricity shortages, drawing large crowds of people on to the streets to protest. The cause of anger that at times even turns violent only underlines how acutely they are suffering. For, the absence of power not only disturbs their daily routine, but could also spell ruin to their lives if they happen to be industrial workers. The industrialists, unable to operate their units to capacity for want of electricity, have little choice but to lay off their workers. The harm that the closure of factories causes to the economy is incalculable.

Under the circumstances any idea that could promise relief from the irksome blackouts ought to have been welcomed by the authorities, let alone the projects having the sanction of the electricity generation authority in the country. Besides, hydel projects would have great advantage over the thermal ones. The power they would produce would be available at nominal rates compared to the phenomenally high tariff according to which the consumer is being charged.

It is important to point out that had Kalabagh Dam been built according to its original schedule and other hydel projects executed over the years, the power-supply situation in the country would have been entirely different. Kalabagh alone would have generated nearly 4,000MW of power virtually closing the gap between supply and demand and saved the economy and the general public the troubles they are facing now. In addition, the big reservoir would have stored around six million acre of water to be used in the areas downstream, Punjab and Sindh, and through canals KPK. It is never too late to realise the folly of opposing Kalabagh on the basis of petty parochial biases. The successive governments have been guilty of neglecting this key infrastructural project that is unique among the dams for its unlimited lifespan. Unfortunately, instead of convincing the opponents of the utility of the dam, the corrupt mafia in power has been interested in introducing expensive thermal projects, including the rental power projects, to line their own pockets. There is urgent need to allocate necessary funds for the hydel projects the Wapda Chairman has been asking for, including Kalabagh.