For Pakistan already buffeted by tricky problems from all sides, there are ever new challenges to encounter. Now, as reported in the press, the Diamir Bhasha Dam that Pakistan wants to build on River Indus near Chilas, District Diamir, 165km downstream of Gilgit, has met with a snag. The World Bank that had earlier promised to provide finances for its construction, though on certain tough conditions, has expressed reservations about honouring its commitment on the plea that it has to be first cleared by India, which has raised objections to its location. One fails to understand how New Delhi could justify objections to the building of the Baglihar Dam, as, it seems, India takes exception to Bhasha’s construction because it is sited in the Northern Areas. In fact, Pakistan’s objection to Baglihar is based on the solid ground that it violates the internationally brokered Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), which bars India from building any “run of the river” project that stores the water that the treaty allocates to Pakistan. However, it is not only creating storages, but also diverting waters to India, waters that belong to Pakistan and are direly needed for its crops and other uses. On the other hand, there are no such limiting factors for the construction of Bhasha Dam, which is being built on River Indus whose uses are exclusively meant for Pakistan under the IWT.
Unfortunately, the Kalabagh Dam, the most suitable water reservoir that could also have produced enough electricity to reduce the current loadshedding to a bearable level, has been abandoned, hopefully temporarily, on political grounds. The choice fell to a more expensive ($11.19 billion to Kalabagh’s $8.1 billion) Diamir Bhasha Dam. The dam, to take 12 years to complete, will generate 4500MW of power and have a live storage capacity of 6.4 million acre feet of water. While Pakistan needs all the water and power resources it could harness to meet the needs of its fast growing population, and Bhasha’s potential must be tapped, it is sad to see our political bosses turn a blind eye to the immense benefits that the Kalabagh Dam could provide at much less cost and in much shorter time than Bhasha. We urge them once again to act in the interest of the nation as a whole rather than be carried away by local considerations.