ISLAMABAD - Kicking off the mega construction work at Diamer-Bhasha Dam at River Indus near Chilas, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that Diamer-Bhasha Dam will generate low-cost environment friendly hydel power in the country.

Addressing a public gathering in Chilas after visiting the site of the dam, the Prime Minister said Diamer Bhasha Dam will be the third largest dam of the country. He said it was envisaged 40 years ago, but work on the project is being started today.

Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and DG ISI Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed were also present on the occasion.

“We will neither have to import fuel for this project nor it will be harmful as far as global warming is concerned”, Imran Khan asserted.

He highlighted that Pakistan has a huge potential for hydel power, which needs to be tapped. He said the government will also launch other hydel power projects in near future.

He pointed out that the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam will change the fate of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by creating employment opportunities for them. “The tourism sector in the region will also get promoted with the implementation of the mega project.”

Imran Khan regretted that in 1990s, a decision was made to generate electricity through imported fuel, which caused current account deficit.

He said due to such poor policies of previous tenures, his government inherited a huge US dollar 20 billion current account deficit. Imran Khan said only those nations thrived that invested in human resource by focusing on education, health and justice.

He cited the example of China’s success based on 30 years of long-term plans to attain a stable place in the comity of nations.

He said more dams would be built in the country at regular intervals to meet the requirements of future.

The prime minister also mentioned his plantation campaign aimed at reducing the risks of climate change as the country falls in the list of 10 most vulnerable states.

The prime minister said that he has been stressing on the issue of climate change, adding that the country is planting more and more trees that will help the environment in the long-run.

“Pakistan is among the ten top countries that stand threatened due to climatic changes,” he said.

He said that the current government intends to plant around 10 billion trees across the country to strengthen the environment and reverse the impact of climate change.

The PM said that the project will open opportunities for the people of Chillas while fortifying the tourism sector.

“Diamer-Bhasha Dam will change the fate of locals and bring immense development in the area,” the prime minster said.

He asked the Chief Commissioner to allow tourists with standard operating procedures (SOPs), to be recommended by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

He expressed the confidence that people of Chilas would not lag behind in development as the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project would create job opportunities.

He said construction of a cadet college in Chilas was also underway, which would provide best education facilities to local students.

He expressed satisfaction over the fact that electricity was being provided free of cost to the locals.

The Prime Minister said Diamer-Bhasha Dam will change the fate of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by creating employment opportunities for them.

He said the tourism sector in the region will also get promoted with the implementation of the mega project.

Imran Khan said the PTI government is focused to uplift the living standard of the downtrodden. He said the government has enhanced budget of Gilgit-Baltistan with an aim to provide maximum facilities to the people of the region.

He added that a cadet college being constructed in the area will provide a great opportunity to the people of Chilas and Gilgit Baltistan.

He said other neglected parts of the country including erstwhile tribal areas and Balochistan were being given unprecedented funds to bring them into journey of mainstream development.

Earlier, the prime minister was given a briefing at the dam’s site, which was also attended by Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda and Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur.

In a related development while commenting on the project, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Information Gen ® Asim Saleem Bajwa in a tweet termed the mobilisation for Diamer-Bhasha Dam as “historic milestone”.

He said the 6.4 MAF (million acre feet) water reservoir would add 1.2 million acres for agriculture and generate 4,500 mega watts cheaper and greener hydel power.

He mentioned that the project would boost sectors of steel, cement and construction besides creating 16,000 jobs.

The dam which will generate 4,500 MW inexpensive and green hydel power is 272-metre high with storage capacity of 6.4 million acre feet water. It will be the country’s third biggest dam after Tarbela and Mangla dams.

Diamer Bhasha Dam, which is a mega project of national importance, was all set for physical implementation after issuance of Letter of Acceptance (LoA) to the contractors for award of main contract amounting to Rs442 billion by Wapda on May 4, 2020.

The contract of consultancy services of the project amounting to Rs 27.182 billion had also been awarded on May 11, 2020.