Islamabad - The government could resettle only 20 percent of the population affected by the Diamer-Bhasha Dam despite the fact that the authorities have acquired 85 percent of the land for the hydropower project.

Documents available with The Nation show that of the total 37,419 acres, the government has so far acquired 31,695 acres costing Rs53.496 billion while the remaining 5724 acres costing Rs6.59 billion is yet to be acquired. The total cost of the land acquisition is estimated at Rs 58.272 billion.

The documents further reveal that only 20 percent affected population has so far been resettled at a cost of Rs5.47 billion while 80 percent of the uprooted population costing further Rs53.496 billion has not yet been resettled.

The Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) has been entrusted with the overall control to implement the project while the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have to provide assistance in the acquisition of land, resettlement, works and social safeguards for the early implementation of the mega scheme.

Diamer Bhasha dam lies between Kohistan in KP and Chilas in GB.  The project is located on the Indus River about 315-kilometer upstream Tarbela Dam and 40-kilometre downstream Chilas.

The government has divided the dam into two parts — the reservoir and the powerhouse. The total cost of the project is around Rs1,300 billion and the phase-I related to the construction of reservoir will cost Rs 649 billion. The reservoir part was already approved by the Central Development Working Party  (CDWP), however, officials say that the cost was not final and it will be rationalized later on. The project will be completed in around 10 years and the cost will be shared by the federal government, the WAPDA and through commercial financing with a ratio of 67 percent, 18 percent and 25 percent respectively.

Similarly, 7 percent work on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) has been completed at a cost of Rs900 million while the 93 percent will cost around Rs55.86 billion, the documents reveal.

Meanwhile, an official said that the pace of resettlement was very slow and could further delay. “We have asked umpteenth times the governments for the early resettlement of the population as soon as possible but no headway could be made so far,” he said.

The construction of the dam will increase Pakistan’s storage capability from 30 days to 48 days. Further, the construction of the dam will make power generation projects an attractive future investment and will, in turn, add an additional 4500 megawatts clean energy to the national grid.

The PC-I of the project was submitted by the WAPDA in March 2017 but it was delayed for almost a year for unknown reasons prior to placing it before the CDWP.

The initial feasibility study of the dam was carried out by MONENCO, Canada in 1984. A detailed project feasibility report was carried out by a joint venture of foreign and local consultants (NEAC) in 2004. In 2008, a third study for a detailed engineering design and tender documentation was carried out by another joint venture of foreign and local consultants. The project groundbreaking took place twice during the tenure of former president Pervez Musharraf and PPP governments, however, the land acquisition started during the tenure of the current government.

An official of the Ministry of Water Resource said that the process of resettlement is underway and it will be completed as soon as the construction work on the main reservoir commences.