ISLAMABAD  - President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to be a lead financer of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project.

The President, in his meeting with the Board of Directors of Asian Development Bank (ADB), said that early completion of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam was crucial for diversifying the energy mix, production of cheap electricity and enhancing storage capacity of water.

The President said that energy shortage and water scarcity were among the major issues faced by the country that hindered smooth economic growth and the government’s efforts towards poverty alleviation.

Briefing about the meeting, spokesperson to the President, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the President emphasized that being a water-stressed country, it was important for Pakistan to urgently enhance its water storage capacity so as to ensure food security and continued agricultural productivity.

The President said that the project was also crucial as it would be generating 4500MW of clean and environmental friendly energy to meet the growing demand of a developing economy. He said that energy shortage was the major issue, which was hampering economic development and growth of the country.

He said that the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam was an integral part of Pakistan’s strategy to control natural disasters like the devastating floods, diversify its energy mix, generation of short and long term employment opportunities, and to focus on building massive infrastructure for overall socio-economic uplift of the area and standard of living of people.

He said that the government had demonstrated its political will and was tapping all avenues for generation of the resources for this project of vital importance. The President said that the government was also cognizant of the safeguard policies and concerns and therefore was adhering to ADB’s principles for resettlement of the displaced persons and environmental protection. He also appreciated the engagement of the bank in TAPI natural gas pipeline project.

Discussing other mega projects, the President said Pakistan believed that regional connectivity could play a key role in ushering in a new era of socio-economic development and growth of the people of the region. In this regard, the President said, Pakistan would host Ministerial Conference of Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) in 2016.

He said that Pakistan was actively participating in all CAREC forums to expand connectivity and trade with its neighbours and to facilitate utilization of the available resources of the region to be put in the service of people for socio-economic development. He also thanked the ADB for positively responding to Pakistan’s request for assistance in preliminary damage and need assessment in Sindh and parts of Balochistan after the devastating floods had wreaked havoc in those areas.

He said that the Government of Pakistan looked forward to continued assistance of the Asian Development Bank in its efforts to extricate people from the generational traps of poverty, ensuring socio-economic development of the people and to overcome the current challenges faced by the economy.

The delegation thanked the President for meeting and assured ADB’s continued engagement with the country. The delegation of Asian Development Bank (ADB) comprised Maurin Sitorus, Ashok Lahiri, Kazuhiko Koguchi, Jerome Destombes, Richard Edwards, Khin Khin Lwin, Siraj Shamsuddin and Werner E. Liepach.

The President was assisted in the meeting by Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh, BISP Chairperson Ms Farzana Raja, Secretary General M Salman Faruqui, Petroleum Advisor Dr Asim Hussain, Senator Farhatullah Babar, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Dr Nadeem-ul-Haq and other senior officials of the ministries concerned.