The Planning Commission has opposed the idea of conducting second feasibility of the Bhasha Dam, without the prior commitment of funding for the project from the lenders, saying it is waste of time and will further increase the estimated cost of the project.

“Yes the government has consulted the Planning Commission regarding the second feasibility of the Bhasha Hydropower project, by the USAID, and the commission has said no to the idea,” an official source told The Nation.

If the USAID or any other lender can make a commitment for funding of the project, it is well and good, otherwise doing feasibility is nothing but just a futile exercise which will cause delay in the implementation of the project for another couple of years and will escalate its total cost, the source informed. Earlier the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had made a commitment and then backtracked from it but this time the commitment should not be verbal, the official added.

If they want they can review the already completed feasibility study and can make the desired changes to it, as it can be done in three to four months time, while the new feasibility needs at least 24 to 36 months time, the source added.

The official said the pre-feasibility study of the project had been completed few years back by a well reputed international firm but the US wanted the feasibility study of international standards and parameters.

It is pertinent to mention here that last October a Business Opportunity Conference was held in Washington, organised by the USAID, to arrange private sector financing for Pakistan’s mega project — the Diamer-Bhasha dam. The government should move beyond the rhetoric and start physical work on the Bhasha dam project, and instead of waiting for the lenders, direct resources from other unnecessary or less necessary projects towards the most important project, the source added.

Experts are of the opinion that if the country fail to construct big water reservoir, like Bhasha in the next eight to ten years you are going to lose the fertile land of Punjab and Sindh as the farmers will be unable to cultivate water intensive crops such as sugarcane and rice.

All the provinces have consensus on the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam which is a roller compacted concrete (RCC) dam on the river Indus situated near a place called “Bhasha” in Gilgit-Baltistan. Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had inaugurated the project in 2011 and declared it a lifeline for Pakistan. Diamer-Bhasha Dam would be the highest RCC dam in the world. Upon completion, Dam would generate 4,500 megawatts of electricity, store 8.5 million acre feet of water, live storage of 6.4 million acre feet, extend the life of Tarbela Dam by 35 years, and control flood damage by the River Indus downstream during high floods. The dam will have a height of 272 meters spillway with fourteen (14) gates each 11.5 m x 16.24 m. In 2011, the estimated cost of the project was $11.19 billion but now the cost has jumped to $14 billion.