Government losing Diamar Bhasha dam’s land as execution of project delays

WAPDA chairman calls urgent meeting to avoid illegal construction on project land. Government paid Rs 64.8 billion compensation

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ISLAMABAD: Despite paying around Rs 64.8 billion in terms of compensation of land, the government starts losing the acquired land of Diamar Bhasha Dam (DBD) for delayed execution of the project as locals reoccupy their land constructing houses.

Taking serious notice of the encroachment on project land, WAPDA chairman has called an urgent meeting on Thursday in Islamabad in which the representatives of the locals have also been invited. As the government of Gilgit Baltistan and district administration failed to vacate the land already acquired for the dam after paying compensation worth billions of rupees, WAPDA is fearful of losing more land in the area to the people, who have started constructing houses, in an apparent move to demand more compensation.

According to reliable sources, WAPDA chairman has invited the district administration, representatives of various tribes in Diamar district and law enforcing agencies to settle the issue on February 8. Earlier law and order situation has deteriorated in the area when district administration started bulldozing the newly constructed houses in site area of the dam.

“Since no lender is ready to finance the much delayed Diamar Bhasha dam project estimated at $ 14 billion, the delay in execution of work on the project is creating a number of challenges for WAPDA and local administration as various tribes have come on the road in favour of their demands frequently. The process of complete land acquisition of the mega project is yet to be completed for different cases/disputes among tribes in the area,” said an official source while talking to Pakistan Today.

“We will be facing the same issue as long as the government delays work on the mega project. Every day there is a clash or dispute on land-related matters,” he said.

Sources at WAPDA said that Rs 58.27 billion out of the Rs 64.88 billion allocated for land accusation and compensation for assets have so far been released to the district administration. The disbursement of compensation amount started back in 2012.

It may recall here that, after World Bank and Asian Development Bank, China had reportedly refused to finance $ 14 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam power project due to a transboundary dispute between Pakistan and India.

Water Resources Secretary Shamail Ahmad Khawaja had earlier informed Cabinet Committee on CPEC that Chinese side had carried out a detailed study to assess the feasibility of DBD project. The assessment report was shared with Pakistan wherein some issues were raised regarding (i) seismic hazard; (ii) logistics; (iii) technical aspects of construction and equipment; (iv) social and environmental impact and; (v) geopolitical aspect.

The sources said the Power Division secretary proposed that in view of the Chinese response, dam part may be constructed through indigenous resources through a combination of PSDP grant, commercial financing and WAPDA equity. He also suggested that the power generation facility may be started 2-3 years after work is started. He further informed the meeting that 85 per cent land of the project had already been acquired and resettlement was underway. The prime minister agreed to the proposal.

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