Funding for dams

Pakistan is seeking up to $2 billion from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Swiss banks and may impose a special surcharge on electricity consumption to meet funding needs of Diamer-Bhasha and Munda dams. Speaking to media after the second meeting of Implementation Committee of the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams appointed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Chairman, Water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan (WAPDA) retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain said the fund raising campaign had received a welcome response from the public that has so far donated Rs260 million.
Thanks to the momentum built by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar for construction of the two dams, there is now greater realisation both on part of the authorities concerned and the general public that the country cannot afford the luxury of sluggish response to water challenge. Pakistan is facing critical situation as far as water availability for agriculture, power, industrial, commercial and domestic use is concerned. Funding for mega water reservoirs has always been a problem but it is more so today as financing of two major dams at a time is a Herculean task. The situation would have been much different if past governments would have allocated necessary resources for building of just one mega water reservoir projects. In that case, we would have four/five dams ready today as one such project takes from five to ten years to complete.
Funding from AIIB should not have been problem as investment on future of the country is worth making and it was possible to spare one to two hundred billions every year for the purpose. If we can allocate Rs 130b annually for Benazir Income Support Programme, the utility of which is quite limited, there is no doubt that the country could have afforded allocation of necessary resources for initiating work on one dam after every five years. Anyhow, the CJP has already opened an account to help mobilise resources for building two dams and there has been enthusiastic response from individual and institutional donors. The statement of the Chairman WAPDA that a financing plan has been put up to the CJP is encouraging and hopefully negotiations with the AIIB and Swiss banks would yield positive results.
There is also logic for levy of surcharge for the purpose on power bills but this should replace the NJ surcharge and must not be an additional tax as people are also paying too much taxes on their electricity bills. We also hope that the Chief Justice would personally look into other obstacles in smooth progress of work on these two dams and help overcome them in coordination with relevant departments and ministries. It would also be appropriate if the Implementation Committee, which has necessary mandate, prepares a comprehensive and workable strategy to initiate work and complete it on fast track basis including completion of codal formalities. Chairman WAPDA has a team of competent people to help formulate a cohesive plan that fulfils aspirations of the people. This would be a great service to the nation if we succeed in delivering on this front and there is no reason we should not.

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