Tribal elders have vowed to fight for their rights on electricity generated from Pattan-based 132 megawatts Dobair Khwar Hydropower Plant, if Wapda fails to stand by its promise.
They decided this at a jirga held in Dasu on Sunday to discuss the problems faced by the people of Kohistan. The elders of Seo, Shanaki, Jalkot and Kandiya Valley, who were present on the occasion, criticised Wapda authorities for delaying the supply of electricity even after two years.
“Wapda officials made a written agreement in August 2013 on behalf of the chairman of the authority and the water and power secretary,” Malik Qadam Khan, a tribal elder, told The Express Tribune. “As per the agreement, Wapda was bound to allocate 13 megawatts of electricity from Dobair Khwar Hydropower Plant at cheaper rates for Upper Kohistan and Lower Kohistan.”
Malik Qadam added despite the passage of two years, Wapda authorities have not fulfilled their promise and residents of Kohistan are purchasing electricity from smaller private hydro units which locals have constructed on their own; a majority of residents live without a facility as basic as electricity.
In the dark
Another tribal elder, Malik Khan Bahadur, said only Pattan town has electricity while the rest of the valley is without it. He added in some areas Wapda got poles erected a few years back but has not made them functional.
Although Kohistan was housing some important hydropower projects, including Diamer Bhasha Dam, Dasu Hydropower Project and over half a dozen small projects and would be contributing thousands of megawatts of electricity to the national grid, people of the district remain deprived of their rights, said another elder, Malik Ameer. He said if the situation remains the same and Wapda officials keep ignoring the people of Kohistan, people will take to the streets Tuesday onwards.
“Before the protest, a 20-member committee would be formed with people from different parts of Upper Kohistan and Lower Kohistan to discuss the issue and take it up with higher authorities,” added Malik Manan Shah, also a tribal elder.
Elders at the jirga also rejected the rates of land acquired for Dasu Hydropower Project and demanded they be paid the market rate. The demands discussed at the jirga were supported by Sarzamin Khan, an MNA from Kohistan and parliamentary secretary on industries, who was also present on the occasion. He condemned Wapda for the delay and said if the authority was serious about bringing an end to the energy crisis, it was bound to address concerns of the people of Kohistan.
However, Sarzamin urged participants of the jirga to keep calm and resolve the issue through negotiations. The MNA promised he would take up the matter with Wapda and later in the National Assembly if the authority failed to honour the written agreement.
The construction of Dobair Khwar Hydropower Plant started in June 2003 and completed in June 2013. The project that cost Rs16.32 billion was built on the right bank of Indus River in Pattan village of Lower Kohistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2015.