According to a report by the Parliamentary Affairs Committee (PAC), the communications campaign for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam cost more than the actual amount of money that was raised for its construction. $40 million was raised from the public for the construction of the dam, but $63 million was spent on advertising it, and it’s nowhere close to completion. This is an alarming revelation that raises serious questions about the crowd-funding approach that was employed for this project.

The dam was originally meant to be completed in the 1980s, but factors like environmental impact and escalating cost kept delaying the project. Then, in 2018, former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar set up a fund for the construction of the dam, at which point the cost had escalated to $14 billion. Contributions poured in from all over including the country’s cricket team and music celebrities. By the time Mr Nisar retired in 2019, there existed a shortfall of $6.3 billion.

Recently, speaking at a literary festival, former CJ Nisar revealed that the purpose of the fundraising was not to actually build the dams, but to raise awareness about how important the issue is. This course came as a shock as it certainly isn’t what was being advertised back then, where even questioning the approach of fundraising was deemed offensive.

The PAC has now summoned Mr Nisar regarding these revelations and many supporters of the dam have expressed disappointment after learning that the dam was nowhere near being built. This illustrates that popular campaigns that capture headlines cannot make up for poor policy-making and planning. Moreover, this model of public funding should be reconsidered as citizens contribute enough through taxes for development purposes. There is little sense in asking for charity that could perhaps be diverted for other important causes, especially if the money is not used judiciously.