Bhasha dam site is not a natural site for a storage dam like Tarbela and Kalabagh. It was identified as a site for hydropower development by the World Bank in 1967. However its first feasibility report was drawn for a storage dam on cue by Wapda in 1984. The RCC Bhasha dam height is 922 feet with a water storage capacity of 6.7 maf and hydropower generation of 4500 mw. There is no other dam of this height in the world. Diamir Bhasha appeared to be but a “political” or fake dam!  Trickery did pay on 17 January 2006 when Musharraf suddenly announced to build it first instead of KBD. The safety aspects of 922 feet high RCC Bhasha Dam stemmed from its unprecedented height and field risk factors. There is no RCC dam anywhere higher than 620 feet in China. RCC is relatively soft and vulnerable to cracks and leakage compared to conventional vibrated concrete used for building thousands of high dams, bridges and skyscrapers etc.

The location of Bhasha Dam falls under an active earthquake zone and in the valley terrain prone to extraordinary environmental hazards. This region is seismically very active due to its position near the collision boundary of the Indian and Asiatic tectonic plates. The proposed dam site is located in the Kohistan region. The Kohistan terrain represents an intra oceanic "Island Arc" which was formed as the result of the collision process of the Indian and Eurasian plates. Grave seismic risk was demonstrated by magnitude 7.6 earthquake of October 8, 2005. Incidentally it had also been predicted by a German consultant of a hydropower project that Bhasha site falling in a seismically very sensitive zone, an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 could occur any time here. He proved right as noted above. The earthquake devastated the region causing great loss of life and property particularly in Azad Kashmir.

Another serious risk factor may be reservoir induced seismicity primarily due to immense weight of water stored behind a dam. It can trigger tremors. India's Koyna dam induced magnitude 6.4 earthquake killing180 people in 1967. A far more disastrous event was the recent exceptionally 7.9 magnitude earthquake believed to be induced by water weighing 320 million tons stored behind 511 feet high Zipingpu dam built in 2004 on the Minjiang (Min) tributary of China’s Yangtze River. Reportedly 80,000 people were killed. (Wall Street Journal Feb 6, 2009). It must be noted that weight of water would be far more behind 922 feet high Bhasha Dam – almost twice the height of Zipingpu. Risk could be greater due to its location “in a very active seismic zone.” Surprisingly Bhasha project report did not address risk of reservoir induced seismicity.

Indus valley host to Bhasha Dam was known for massive avalanches, landslides, rock/snow dams and lake bursts. In mid 19th century part of a mountain near Nanga Parbhat fell into the Indus triggered by an earthquake. It blocked flow for 6 months. In 2005 government retained Diamer Bhasha Dam Consultants (DBDC) with a German company as the lead firm. This company was not qualified to be retained as it was black listed by the World Bank for having been found involved in cases of corruption and payoffs. This firm was also Consultant for India’s controversial Baglihar project. On November 24, 2006 the World Bank notified India of its decision that they were not qualified to be retained as consultant for any project. Construction of Bhasha roll-crete dam with unprecedented height of 922/892 feet in a very active seismic zone and a valley bedeviled by hazards like avalanches, massive landslides and lake bursts, would be like sailing in unchartered waters. Both Zipingpu and Vajont disasters occurred on tributary rivers. Their impact largely dissipated by the time each joined respective parent river. However in the event of failure or overtopping of Bhasha Dam built on the main Indus - world’s fifth largest river, could be recipe for a disaster of catastrophic proportions. A 900 feet or so high flood surge could be unleashed as at Vajont, like a tsunami with a shooting velocity and devastating ferocity.

I appeal to the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan to take quick suo motto notice of this issue in the public interest and prevent construction of 922/892 feet high RCC Diamer Bhasha Dam to protect life and limb of 180 million people of Pakistan and their country from catastrophic risks all the way 1200 miles down the valley to the sea coast.

ENGR. BASHIR A. MALIK,

Lahore, January 18.