SHANGLA: Blocking the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in protest or to bring issues to the fore seems to be getting more and more common these days. Residents of Shangla too decided to ride the bandwagon on Saturday after a jirga of local elders expressed concern over the district not being provided its share of electricity from Khan Khwar Dam.
At a press briefing on Saturday, members of the jirga, which convened earlier at Bisham, demanded their “promised share” of 4 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the dam’s 72MW powerhouse. They said that residents of Shangla have incurred huge losses by sacrificing their fertile lands for the construction of Khan Khwar Dam but are not being provided their promised quota of electricity.
The jirga members threatened to block the KKH and besiege the Khan Khwar powerhouse if their demand was not fulfilled. They also cautioned officials of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), which operates the powerhouse, to limit their activities to the hydropower station.
Khan Khwar Dam and its powerhouse were constructed at a cost of Rs10.73 billion on the right tributary of Indus River in Shangla district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). A large area under cultivation was taken from local farmers for the project and affected their livelihoods, said a jirga member. “What justice is this that a power station and dam has been constructed on our land using our resources and we are deprived of its benefits,” he said.
The dam’s powerhouse generates 306 million units of low-cost electricity per year with annual cost benefits estimated at Rs3billion.
“We are demanding less than 6% of the dam’s total electricity output, is even that too much to ask?” remarked another jirga member. He said that on the inauguration of the dam, the incumbent K-P Chief Minister and Prime Minister directed Wapda to fulfil their power needs, but the authority and the local administration are not paying heed to their concerns.
He added that provision of subsidised electricity to Besham and construction of a cadet college, a passport office and water supply schemes in the district were also promised by the PM during the inauguration, but nothing has been done in this regard so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2012.
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