The United States has shown its willingness to partially finance the gigantic Diamer Bhasha Dam to ease water and power shortages in Pakistan and this comes at a time when multilateral donors have backed down on assurances of funds following Indian objections.
“Diamer Bhasha Dam needs massive financing and we can extend partial assistance for the project,” US Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Director Jock Conly told The Express Tribune on the sidelines of an agreement signing ceremony for financial assistance for the construction of Waran canal system here on Wednesday.
Conly said the ball was now in Pakistan’s court, which should decide how to deal with the US financing proposal.
Talking to the media after the ceremony, Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Acting Chairman Raghib Abbas Shah pointed out that the government was negotiating with different countries, including Russia and China, for financial support for Diamer Bhasha Dam.
“We are working on other proposals as well in case no country promises money for the dam. In this regard, imposition of a surcharge on power consumers is also being considered,” he said.
To cope with power shortage, he said, work on different hydropower projects including Neelum Jhelum was under way.
Speaking on Gomal Zam hydropower project, he said it would start producing electricity by December this year and the dam would begin irrigating agricultural land in March next year. The US has given $80 million for the dam with $12 million released recently.
Abbas also raised the issue of abduction of labour working on the Gomal Zam Dam. “Such incidents may slow the pace of construction work and the government should intervene to get kidnapped workers released.”
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, who was also present on the occasion, said he had already taken up the matter with the interior minister and would also meet the president to seek swift measures for the safe release of workers.
Welcoming US assistance, Kundi pointed out that Waran canal system would bring prosperity in the local area and help irrigate barren land.
Earlier, Wapda Acting Chairman Raghib Abbas Shah and USAID Country Director Jock Conly signed the agreement for the canal system.
Addressing the signing ceremony, Conly said USAID would provide $12 million for construction of the 164km-long canal system to irrigate permanently 8,000 acres of land in Tank District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Waran Canal is part of a larger Gomal Zam irrigation project.
With the addition of Waran Canal, USAID will build a canal system to irrigate 191,000 acres of land that has mostly been barren. The canal system will enable local communities to work on their land, create jobs and improve income of people in the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2012.