The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is set to teach the Pakistani government a lesson by refusing funds for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam. The pending dam project would secure greater supply of basic necessities. Construction would generate 4,500 megawatts of hydropower electricity, eight-and-a-half million acre-feet of water storage, flood control downstream the Indus River, and it would provide temporary jobs. Owing to the high cost of the project, however, ADB President Takehiko Nakao’s concerns about corruption within the agencies of the government are valid. As a reputable funding organisation, one would want a reformed and transparent government system before doling out a sum of $14 billion for a project.
Two months ago, former head of the United Nations Development Programme Marc-Andre Franche criticised Pakistani leaders for oppressive practices. Tax avoidance, tax evasion and money laundering leave little room for accountability. The government should understand that financiers are not there to give handouts; the purpose behind financial requests must be fulfilled with periodic public reports furnished to the funding authorities. Previously, Pakistan did not face as much difficulty in receiving funding. However, resources were often squandered and little or no progress was observed in terms of improvement of quality of life for the people.
While the statement that the project would reduce dependence on fossil fuel-based power is dubious for now due to the gargantuan dearth of electricity we face and while negative environmental impact of dam construction cannot be overlooked, the dam would assuage many of Pakistan’s water and electricity shortage problems. The ADB’s recommendation to break up the project into smaller ventures is circumspect. However, it is in Pakistan’s best interest that agencies decline funding until it eliminates corruptive practices and looks within for fund sourcing. This will facilitate the country in becoming self-sufficient, which is the epitome of a developed nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2016.