ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan has insisted that it has not withdrawn objections to the Dasu Dam – a project Pakistan plans to build on the Indus River at an estimated cost of nearly $7.5 billion and expected to produce 4,300 megawatts of electricity.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday rejected the remarks made by Pakistani ministers that Kabul had withdrawn its opposition to the dam, which would have serious negative environmental repercussions for Afghanistan.
“I reject as completely baseless the statement made by Pakistan’s Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif that Afghanistan has abandoned its opposition to the Dasu Dam,” Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Shakaib Mustaghni said in a weekly briefing in Kabul.
“We still have reservations about the dam and all institutions concerned in Afghanistan are studying its impact on the country,” Mustaghni said, according to a statement available with The Express Tribune.
Last month, Afghanistan’s National Security Council opposed the construction of Dasu hydropower project, saying it would be against the principles of joint rivers.
The council meeting, presided over by President Hamid Karzai, claimed that the dam was being built on the Kabul-Indus River.
Khawaja Asif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had earlier stated that Kabul had withdrawn its objection when Afghan officials were informed that the Dasu Dam would be built on the Indus River and had nothing to do with Afghanistan.
Afghanistan had also urged the World Bank and other international lenders to stop funding for the project unless its concerns were addressed. It claimed that Pakistan neither informed Afghanistan about the project through diplomatic channels nor was any agreement signed between the two countries.
Pakistan has already approached the World Bank, seeking the start of approval process for a $700 million loan for the 4,320MW project, according to sources in the Ministry of Finance. Construction work is expected to start this year.
Officials say the feasibility study and detailed engineering design of the project have already been completed. The government has cleared the project and the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) has constituted a committee to rationalise its cost.
Ground-breaking ceremony will be held on May 15, where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will kick off construction work.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2014.