ISLAMABAD: The last time a new, major dam project was inaugurated in Pakistan was at Tarbela, almost five decades ago, under the Ayub Khan administration.
That dry spell broke on Tuesday when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani became the first democratically-elected head of government to lay the foundation stone for the 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
“The [Diamer-Bhasha] dam will be the lifeline for the country’s economy,” Gilani told a public gathering in Chilas at the foundation stone-laying ceremony.
“It’s an historic day and I salute you for sacrificing your ancestral lands and homes to secure the future of Pakistan,” Gilani said, addressing the approximately 22,000 people in 30 villages that are likely to be displaced due to the dam.
With a storage capacity of about 8 million acre feet (MAF) and projected electricity generation of 4,500MWs, Diamer-Bhasha will top both Tarbela and Mangla dams, whose storage capacities have fallen drastically due to silting over the years.
The project will take eight years to complete and will cost over $12 billion.
In addition to the Rs11.5 billion already allocated for the project, Gilani announced an additional Rs1 billion for repair and expansion of Karakoram Highway and other roads in the region.
Asking the authorities concerned to ensure that locals are employed in the construction of the dam, Gilani announced Rs200 million for the development of Diamer district, besides announcing a cadet college for the region and upgradation of district headquarters hospitals of Chilas, Gilgit and Skardu.
He said that an engineering faculty would be set up at the Karakoram International University which would later be upgraded to an engineering university.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2011.