Cost of Diamer Bhasha Dam goes up by Rs174b

ISLAMABAD   –  The cost of Diamer Bhasha Dam (MW-I) has gone up by Rs174 billion, or 36.32 percent, in the last five years mainly due to depreciation of Pakistani rupee and high inflation.

The estimated cost of Diamer Bhasha Dam was Rs479 billion in December 2016. “However, after taking into account the actual contract awarded, main work, parameters of increase in exchange rate and inflation, the estimate cost has now escalated to Rs653 billion,” said a WAPDA official while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

The committee, which met with MNA Junaid Akbar in the chair, was informed that the revised PC-I for the Bhasha Dam is ready and will be submitted soon to the planning commission for approval.

Committee member Ahsan Iqbal grilled WAPDA officials over the cost escalation of Bhasha dam and said: “It is going to become another Neelum Jhelum.” He said it is the fault of the planning commission which approved the two years old PC-I, and released funds without revising the cost estimates. “They will be held responsible if the cost further escalates,” he said. Ahsan Iqbal asked the WAPDA official: “Can you give in writing that the project will be completed in the stipulated eight-and-a-half years, or even in nine years?” However, the WAPDA official instead of giving pledge said: “God willing! It will be completed within the timeline.”

However, the committee expressed concern over the lapse on part of Water and Power Distribution Authority (WAPDA) for not being able to revise the financial estimates of the Diamer Bhasha Dam Project despite an expected increase in its cost due to high inflation and unprecedented rise in the price of US dollar. The committee reiterated that the ministry should play an active role in ensuring financial discipline regarding the projects that were being undertaken by various departments. The ministry gave a compliance report regarding the recommendations of the previous meeting.

The committee unanimously confirmed minutes of its previous meeting held on August 16, 2021.The representatives of the National Highways Authority gave a detailed briefing on the improvement, upgradation and widening of Juglot-Skardu Road [Revised PSDP No. 67(2021-2022)]. The delay in the execution of the said project was accrued due to number of obstacles including dangerous and difficult terrain as well as huge boulders and rocks. However, the committee was informed that more than 60 percent of the project has been executed while the rest was expected to be complete by the end of November 2021. It was also informed that the ease of travelling has increased manifold due to the said project and curtailed half the travelling time.

The committee noted that the process of land acquisition for such projects should be completed prior to their commencement to avoid any unnecessary delays. The committee also observed that there is a lack of coordination between the PSDP projects of the federal government and the Annual Development Programmes (ADP) of the provincial governments, especially with regards to under developed and neglected areas of the country. The committee recommended that the ministry may take measures to come up with a National Action Plan to develop the underprivileged areas by harmonising the PSDPs and ADPs for their proper execution.

The committee took a briefing on the progress of the Inter-Provincial Connectivity Economic Corridor through Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir Project [PSDP No. 691 (2021-2022)]. The ministry informed that the said project is being given due importance as it provides an alternate route for the Karakoram Highway. However, the cases for federalisation of the roads included for the said project are underway with their respective governments (Thalichi, Gilgit-Baltistan to Shounter, Azad Jammu and Kashmir). A detailed presentation on the status of Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway was also given by the National Highways Authority. The committee was informed that the said project had been envisaged on Public-Private Partnership basis and is delayed due to unforeseen financial constraints on the National Exchequer because of Covid-19.

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