LAHORE – Wapda chairman Raghib Shah has reiterated that construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam is top priority of the government.

In a media briefing at Wapda House on Tuesday, he said that land acquisition and infrastructure development work in the project area was in progress.

“Process to acquire land both in Gilgit Balitistan and KP was continuing. The work on 14 local contracts is in full swing for construction of model villages for affectees, Wapda offices and colonies, contractor’s camps, road, etc. in the project area. Expression of Interest (EoI) had also been called for consultancy of the project,” he held.

So far, no international lending agency has committed funding for $13 billion Bhasha project owing to Indian propaganda that the dam is being constructed on disputed territory. There are reports the government is losing interest on the construction of the dam.

However, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson recently hinted at his country’s support for the project, saying the matter would be taken up in the upcoming meeting of the US-Pakistan Economic Working Group next month in Washington.

“World Bank has not directly refused funding for the Diamer-Bhasha,” replied Raghid Shah on a question about the project but he refused to comment when asked why India was opposing the construction of the dam.

To another query, the authority chairman said that NTDC owed Rs80 billion to the Wapda. He said that people did not pay their taxes and ultimately the projects faced delay. He was of the view that media should instigate people for paying their taxes and electricity bills and it was in the best interest of the country. “We are providing electricity to those who do not pay bills,” he regretted.

The chairman said the World Bank had shown interest to provide funds for Dasu Hydropower Project. Responding to another question regarding impact of climate change on water flows, Shah told the reporters that Wapda was setting up glacier monitoring system in high ranges of the glaciers for the purpose.

 with support of the World Bank and other financial institutions and donor agencies.

He informed that a number of water and hydropower projects with cumulative water storage capacity of 12 million acre feet and power generation capacity of about 20,000 MW were under various stages of implementation.