ISLAMABAD - The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC), Thursday, finally gave a nod to building the much-delayed Diamer-Bhasha Dam with an estimated cost of Rs 894 billion. The meeting chaired by Federal Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin, approved 26 out of 44 proposed projects with a projected cost of Rs 977 billion including Diamer-Bhasha Dam. According to sources, Federal Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmad Bilour walked out of the meeting in protest when Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin rejected the project worth Rs 12 billion for development of Pakistan Railways. He was insisting on the approval of the project, an insider said, adding, Some members of the cabinet brought Bilour back to the meeting. Later, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira briefing the reporters about the decisions told that the cost of Diamer-Bhasha Dam was Rs 894 billion with 4500 Megawatt power generation capacity. Flanked by Water and Power Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Secretary Information Ashfaq Ahmad Gondal and senior officials of the relevant ministries, Minister for Information said that the dam would help meet not only the energy requirements of the country but would also fulfil its agricultural needs. He said the approval of the mega project of national importance would usher in new era of socio-economic prosperity in the country. Kaira said ECNEC considered 44 proposed projects with estimated cost of Rs 1200 billion but approved 26 projects with projected cost of Rs 977 billion. He, however, stated that remaining 18 projects would be reviewed in the next meeting of ECNEC, likely to be held within next two weeks. Explaining the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, Kaira said the government had already allocated Rs 15 billion in the budget for the current fiscal year for acquiring land and compensation to the affectees of the Northern Areas. To a query, he said that the people of the area neither opposed the project nor raised voice against it. I assure them that their genuine demands regarding compensation and settlement would be addressed on a priority basis, he asserted. Kaira assured the people of the area that first their problems would be resolved and then the work on the project would start, adding the priority would be given to the local people in terms of employment. Regarding royalty issue, he said it would be given as per the Constitution. Kaira regretted that the energy sector was neglected for the last 33 years as no major water reservoir or dam after Mangla and Tarbela were constructed that led to energy and water crises. He said the present government realizing the importance of this sector decided to build Diamer-Bhasha Dam and for the first time practical steps were taken for implementation of the project. Speaking on the occasion, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the Diamer-Bhasha was considered to be the highest ever concrete dam with 6.4 million acre feet storage capacity. It would irrigate 35 million acres of land and is expected to be completed in eight to ten years, he further told. He said the civil work on the project was likely to start in October next year while work on land acquisition would start within next three months. It would also generate 19 billion units of electricity with per unit rate of Rs 2.90. Answering a question, he said funds were not a problem for the project as international financial institutions had shown their interest in financing the mega project. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said all the stakeholders had been taken on board on the project before its final approval. Answering another question, he clarified that as per survey of seismologists, the Diamer-Basha Dam is far away from the fault line in the area. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf assured that the bidding process for the award of construction of the project would be transparent.