WASHINGTON- The United States on Wednesday pledged support for Pakistan’s $ 14 billion Diamer Bhasha Dam project that would help Islamabad meet the growing energy needs.

The pledge came at a joint platform that brought together senior leaders and experts and business leaders at the US Chamber of Commerce, co-hosted by the US Agency for International Development and the US-Pakistan Business Council.

The US officials, USAID Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah and US Special Representative Dan Feldman, and Pakistan’s Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar and Water and Power and Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif highlighted tremendous opportunities for American and international investors in the “transformational” power generation and water storage project. Pakistan needs 10,000MW of power to meet its exponentially growing domestic, industrial and agrarian requirements. Upon completion, Diamer-Bhasha Dam would produce 4,500 megawatts of electricity through environmentally clean hydropower generation, store an extra 8,500,000 acres feet of water for Pakistan that would be used for irrigation and drinking, extend the life of Tarbela Dam located downstream by 35 years and control flood damage by the River Indus downstream during high floods.

It will have a height of 272 meters spillway with 14 gates each 11.5m x 16.24m. The gross capacity of the reservoir will be 8,100,000 acres feet, with a live storage of 6,400,000 acres feet. Two underground powerhouses are being proposed, one on each side of the main dam having six turbines on each side with total installed capacity of 4500MW.

The Obama administration officials assured the investors of effective results, citing results from US-financed energy up-gradation projects. “We know that success can take hold,” Dr Shah said in reference to completion of US-financed small projects and addition to power generation capacity of large dams, which have brought 1400MW of power to the national system. Daniel Feldman said the US and Pakistan had a wide-ranging strategic partnership and that Washington was for a long-term economic and investment relationship with Pakistan, particularly in the energy field. “Investment in the Diamer Bhasha Dam is the smartest choice for Pakistan,” Feldman remarked, reiterating the White House and Secretary John Kerry’s commitment to backing for economic and energy security of Pakistan.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government was committed to encouraging foreign investment into various sectors of the economy and it was crystal clear that the country needed both Dasu and Bhasha dams. “We have demonstrated our commitment and acquired land from our own indigenous resources.” He said the government’s resolve to bolster the national economy was evident from a series of macro-economic positive indicators that Islamabad had achieved in a short period of time. He added that building the Diamer Bhasha Dam was one of the top national priorities. He told the gathering of experts and investors about the government’s robust economic agenda, saying Islamabad had stemmed the economic downslide it inherited and now exports, GDP rate, remittances, revenue collection and industrial growth had all registered a marked growth. Despite demonstrations in Islamabad rupee had been fairly staying at stable exchange rate, while inflation had also been checked.

Senator Dar said the government had paid off circular debt it had inherited from the previous administration and also expanded development spending to Rs 525 billion. Khawaja Asif said Washington’s support for Diamer Bhasha Dam would cement relations between the two countries. “Pakistan believes it can best cope with energy shortages through hydropower projects which provides inexpensive power to users,” he said. He drew attention of the meeting participants to the lucrative and enormous investment opportunities that Pakistan’s energy sector offers with the promise of healthy returns. Asif reaffirmed Islamabad’s commitment to offering one-window operation to investors.

Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani hailed the tremendous response to the conference which drew participation of 160 experts and investors. “This shows support for Pakistan’s serious commitment to energy projects. “This is the second instance that support for Islamabad’s energy generation programmes has emanated from Washington, following the World Bank and US backing for the Dasu project,” Ambassador Jilani said in an interaction with the media. Jilani said the security had improved in Pakistan and investors had not raised any concerns on this count. Islamabad, he said, was strictly following the Indus Water Treaty and saw no reason for any Indian objection to the construction of Diamer Bhasha Dam.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson said the meeting on Diamer Bhasha dam had generated enthusiasm and interest among investors. Pakistan had been on the path of democratisation for the last six years and the rule of law had sent an important message to investors.