Somersault by the ADB on Bhasha

Letter August 14, 2012
Any delay in the provision of funds to this project would additionally cost $1.825 billion a year.

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) had agreed in June this year to partly fund the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam through the provision of $5 billion. The rest of the funding was to come from the US, which committed to provide $1billion over five years, whereas the Islamic Development Fund and the Kuwait Funds also agreed to partly fund the project. The dam is designed to generate 20 billion units per annum and contribute $5 million a day to the national economy. Any delay in the provision of funds would additionally cost $1.825 billion a year.

In a strange turn of events, the ADB has backtracked from its commitment to finance the project. It had earlier partly funded the Mangla Dam on the Pakistani side of Kashmir and did not seek any NOC that it now seeks from India in the case of the Bhasha-Diamer Dam. It seems that the ADB’s inability to counter Indian influence is at play here as that country is the third largest shareholder of the bank. The World Bank has also shown reluctance in funding the project as it is now seeking an NOC from India on the issue.

It is a dilemma for Pakistan because by going to India for an NOC, the whole issue would legitimise the status of Gilgit-Baltistan as a disputed territory. It would be in the fitness of things that instead of going to these institutions, Pakistan looks elsewhere for funding the project. China, Arab countries and Turkey could be approached for formation of a consortium to fund the project. There is a need to gather banks, lending agencies, local investors, etc to contribute towards this project, which may become an asset in combating impending water shortages in the country.

Engineer Javed Iqbal

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.