Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday that the government had procured land worth $1 billion for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam from its own resources, and work on the project would kick-off by the 2016 end.

“The govt has prioritized resolution of the energy, water and food security issues, which are at the heart of the Vision 2025,” the minister said, while speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus Conference, 2016. The conference was jointly organised by the US Embassy and National University of Science and Technology (NUST).

“After the Tarbella and Mangla Dams, nothing was done for the water storage, and today Pakistan is left with only 30-day water capacity; upon the completion of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, it will reach up to 90 days,” Ahsan said, while underling the need for technically efficient wide-ranging interventions for water usage efficiency.

The minister observed that the world faced a challenge in the form of climate change, “Pakistan is no exception,” he warned. He cautioned that time was running out, especially for Pakistan; if the issues of food security, water and energy were not resolved in the shortest possible time, these would further deteriorate.

“Pillar-IV of the Vision 2025 gives a roadmap for ensuring energy, water and food security,” Ahsan said, lamenting that the Vision 2010 had also given a framework for achieving the envisioned goals, but after the 1999 coup, the subsequent governments did not do what was required.

He said that the electricity shortage was posing a direct threat to all sectors, adding that new energy projects would generate 10,000 MW by 2018. He further said that the government would be spending $3 billion for improving the transmission and distribution networks. “More electricity would be added to the national grid in due course,” he added.

The minister said that the food security could be ensured through an ample supply of water and energy. “Inadequate food was producing stunted children, who were not only physically incapacitated; their cognitive abilities were also adversely affected, Ahsan said, adding, “They will be unable to compete in the digitalised world where the competition will be getting tougher with every passing day.”

He said the last visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to America paved the way for the US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor, which would be of huge import in gearing the country for meeting its educational needs. “We want the US to help us train 10,000 PhDs in the coming years; since it is only through knowledge that we can meet the challenges,” Ahsan said, and added, “We have a vision for putting Pakistan among top 25 economies of the world, which is possible by working harder, better and smarter.” 

Earlier, University Rector Engineer Muhammad Asghar gave a welcome address. Dr Hamza Gabriel briefed the audience about the two-day conference, while the US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale gave the opening remarks.