Diamer-Bhasha dam’s construction set to commence after 40 years of delay | Pakistan Today

Diamer-Bhasha dam’s construction set to commence after 40 years of delay

–Lt Gen Asim provides final push to project as government crosses ‘line of reluctance’

ISLAMABAD: After 40 long years of planning and political wrangling on the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project, Pakistan has finally crossed the ‘line of reluctance’ by announcing to start the construction work on the project.

Officials said that over the past four decades, the project could not commence due to lack of political will and reluctance of the executive authority due to conspiracy theories and negative propaganda launched by the enemy under ‘5th generation war’.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to go ahead with the project and tasked former Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director-general and incumbent China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Chairman Lieutenant General (r) Asim Saleem Bajwa to ensure immediate execution of the project.  Since overtaking the job, he has been instrumental in pushing the project and due to his efforts, the project is now ready for start of construction work at the project.

Last week, the government signed a contract of Rs442 billion with China Power for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam. The Chinese firm is executing the project in a joint venture with Frontier Works Organisation (FWO).

The Chinese state-run firm holds 70 per cent and the FWO, a commercial arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces, has 30 per cent share in the consortium. The contract covers construction of a diversion system, main dam, access bridge and the 21MW Tangir Hydropower Project.

Amir Bashir Chaudhry, the chief executive officer of the project, and the authorised representative of China Power Yang Jiandu signed the agreement on behalf of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and the Chinese company, respectively. Water Resources Minister Faisal Vawda, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, Water Resources Secretary Mohammad Ashraf, WAPDA Chairman Lieutenant General (r) Muzammil Hussain, Pakistan Army Engineer-In-Chief Lieutenant Gen Moazzam Ejaz and FWO Director General Major General Kamal Azfar attended the signing ceremony.

The WAPDA chairman expressed the hope that the Diamer-Bhasha Dam would be completed as per the timeline to cope with the increasing water and electricity requirements of the country. The dam project with a total financial outlay of about Rs1,406.5 billion would be completed in 2028, he added.

He also said that the total financial outlay includes land acquisition and resettlement, confidence building measures for social uplift of the local people, construction of dam and power houses. He added that the project would have a gross storage capacity of 8.1 eight million-acre feet and power generation capacity of 4,500MW, with an annual generation of 18.1 billion units, however, the electromechanical and power generation project would be taken up separately at a later stage.

The dam will help provide cheap energy for the country’s industrial development besides helping irrigate 1.23 million acres of barren land mostly in Sindh province. The irrigation would also help the country develop its food needs and also export vegetables and food resources while it would also deter floods.

An official said the concerned departments are monitoring the rise of anti-dam propaganda on social media sites which needs to be countered with facts and awareness campaign is being designed in this regard. The official hoped that patriotic Pakistanis would castoff the propaganda against the dam.

The eight MAF reservoir with 272-metre height would be the tallest roller compact concrete (RCC) dam in the world. It would have a spillway, 14 gates and five outlets for flushing out silt. The diversion system would involve two tunnels and a diversion canal — all three having one kilometre length each. The bridge — a box girder structure — under the contract would be constructed downstream of the dam structure while the 21MW power plant would be built to meet energy requirements of the project during construction.

WAPDA has already awarded a contract of Rs27.182 billion for dam’s consultancy services to Diamer-Bhasha Consultants Group (DBCG). The consultancy agreement includes construction design, construction supervision and contract administration of the dam project.

The DBCG joint venture comprises 12 top-ranked national and foreign consulting firms — Nespak (Pakistan), Associate Consulting Engineers (Pakistan), Mott MacDonald Pakistan, Poyry (Switzerland), Montgomery Watson and Harza (MWH) International-Stantec (USA), Dolsar Engineering (Turkey), Mott McDonald International (England), China Water Resources Beifang Investigation, Design and Research Company (China), Mirza Associates Engineering Services (Pakistan), Al-Kasib Group of Engineering Services (Pakistan), Development Management Consultant (Pakistan) and MWH Pakistan, with Nespak as the lead firm. These firms have a vast experience of providing consultancy services for mega water projects the world over.

The Diamer-Bhasha Dam has been studied since 1980’s. Its preliminary feasibility was carried out by MONENCO of Canada and they proposed an Earth Core Rockfill Dam (ECRD) with a cutoff wall through 40 meters thick alluvium of Indus.

An official said that a detailed feasibility study was carried out by NEAC Consultants, including top-notch world class consultants like Montgomery Watson Harza of the United States and Binnie Blac & Veatch of the United Kingdom.

The official said that a very pertinent point is that different group of consultants have designed dams on the Indus River in the same area, where the geology and seismicity is pretty similar. These include the Bunji Dam and Dasu Dam among others, he said.

He also said that the Diamer-Bhasha Dam has gone through three phases from investigations to design from pre-feasibility (1884) to detailed design (2008). World renowned and best Pakistani firms have worked and completed the design. Now the dam design is ready for construction, he added.

The official said that all dams in the world are built in mountainous regions, as dam sites are in such regions. He added that it is also established that all mountainous regions are seismically active.

He further said that dams have to be designed to withstand earthquakes. Rigorous design standards and technical guidelines are available to design the dams to withstand earthquakes and all such world accepted world standards have been applied to the design of Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]