LAHORE - The Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) chairman Mian Nauman Kabir has welcomed the start of construction work of 4,500MW Diamer Bhasha Dam, after witnessing four inaugurations by four prime ministers in four decades, as the dam first envisaged in 1980, hoping that the Pakistan’s biggest dam won’t be delayed now and would be completed in its stipulated time period.

“Its unfortunate that the world’s highest roller compacted concrete dam has seen four openings by four elected prime ministers, including PM Shaukat Aziz, PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, PM Nawaz Sharif and now PM Imran Khan, taking more than 40 years to finally kicking off its construction,” he said.

In a joint statement with senior vice chairman Nasir Hameed and vice chairman Javed Iqbal, he said that the dam first envisaged in 1980 was approved for construction in 2006 by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf who had said: “Water and energy are matters of life and death for us. We have to build all dams”. But it took almost another 14 years to initiate construction work after its first construction approval.

Mian Nauman suggested the government to also include more hydropower projects in its plan including Kalabagh Dam, as the country could not afford to rely on costly and anti-environment fossil fuels.

Its unfortunate that world’s highest roller compacted concrete dam has seen four openings by four elected prime ministers

“PIAF is hopeful that the hydel power project, which would generate 4,500 MW of affordable, clean energy, boosting local industry and also creating more than 16,000 jobs in the country, would be completed within its time frame in 2028 and would not be delayed like several other hydro power projects in the country,” he stated.

It’s a good news for the public in general and business community in particular, as the new project would enable the country to move towards cheaper and greener power, inviting investment of billions of dollars, besides generating local job opportunities, he added.

Mian Nauman Kabir emphasized the importance of dams, stating that over 20 million acres of barren land could be brought under cultivation if the water was made available by developing water storages in the country. Senior vice chairman Nasir Hameed said that with construction of dams, the country could strengthen its agriculture to attain food security and cope with the fast growing needs of water in domestic and industrial sectors besides injecting sizeable low-cost hydroelectricity into the national grid to stabilize the national economy.

Nasir Hameed said that the dam’s 6.4 million-acre feet of water would irrigate at least 1.2 million acres of the agricultural area. Diamer Bhasha dam would increase the country’s storage capacity from 30 to 48 days.

He called for speedy work of other power projects including Shargthang, Hanzal, Chilas, Naltar and Hassanabad Hunza, besides early construction of Kalabagh Dam which was the most suitable project for the national economy as it would produce cheap and sufficient electricity.

Vice Chairman Javed Siddiqi said that Kalabagh dam should not be ignored at any cost, as water scarcity was heading towards the point of no return.

Javed Siddiqi maintained that hydropower was the most advanced and mature renewable energy technology and provided some level of electricity generation in more than 160 countries worldwide. Moreover, hydropower is an attractive renewable option given the low-cost of electricity it produces, low greenhouse gas emissions and the flexibility it provides to the grid.

He said that Pakistan had to develop mega and small dams to store water if it wanted to avert water crisis in the coming years.

PIAF appreciates that despite prevailing situation of COVID-19 in the country, the mega project of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being moved forward with full force and hope that more projects under CPEC would be signed in future.

The government should be lauded for focusing on clean energy to mitigate the climate change impact, as the dual benefits of generating electricity from water instead of furnace oil or coal would save the country billions of dollars spent on importing fuel while reducing the negative impact on the environment.