Pakistan is a country that has long been plagued with electricity problems with power outages due to faulty technical support and load shedding due to the low production of electricity. And because of this, Pakistan’s economy is suffering and so are its people. Pakistan loses up to USD 18 billion or 6.5% of our GDP from its economy due to an insufficient power sector according to the World Bank (2015) and around 51 million Pakistanis live without access to electricity in this day and era which surmounts to 27% of the total population according to the World Bank (2016). The construction of power plants should be a top priority to any administration in power and they should review renewable power plants such as hydel, solar, and wind as a primary alternative.
Diamer Bhasha Dam’s construction started on 15th July 2020 and it is planned to be the third-largest multipurpose dam to be used for water storage, power generation, flood mitigation in the monsoons, and irrigation. It’s also planned to be one of the tallest dams in the world with a height of 272 meters and a width of 1 kilometer. Situated near the town of Chilas, in the Diamer district of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province on the Indus River, the Diamer Bhasha Dam alongside the reservoir will be an architectural juggernaut. The dam is planned to produce 4500 megawatts of energy with 12 turbines with a price tag of a whopping USD 14 billion with a completion date of 2029.
The construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam was a long-sought dream for many administrations but remained incomplete due to a lack of funds to begin this massive feat of engineering in the mountains. To combat and bring awareness to the electricity and water problem Pakistan is facing, a former Chief Justice initiated a crowdfunding campaign in October 2018. The dam’s construction contract was finally awarded jointly to the Power Construction Corporation of China and Pakistan’s Frontier Works Organization (FWO).
Alongside producing 4500 megawatts of cheap and renewable energy, the dam will also boost the local economy, create 16,000 jobs and irrigate 1.2 million acres of agricultural land. Diamer Bhasha Dam will be a Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) gravity dam with 14 spillway gates. It will be able to hold 6.4 MAF to 8.1 MAF (million acres’ feet) of water which will in return increase Pakistan’s water storage capacity from 30 days to 48 days which is a massive improvement considering Pakistan is one of the most water insecure countries in the world. The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is located 315 kilometers upstream from Tarbela Dam and is expected to provide support and increase the lifetime of Tarbela Dam by 35 years.
Though the Diamer-Bhasha Dam gained support from local and international overseers as a huge environmental step for Pakistan and a way to combat our electrical and water problems, India has remained negatively vocal about its construction on a national and international stage. India voiced concerns and requested financial institutions and countries such as the USA and UK not to back the project as it argues the dam’s location in Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) as an illegal development in an “occupied land”. Though it led major financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, and other international donor agencies to turn their backs to Pakistan, we still powered through and we’re still going strong.
The dam is a sight for sore eyes as it will address multiple problems and bring relief to the economy. And this is only the beginning. The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a part of Water Vision 2025 which is a programme under Wapda which plans to initiate 10 hydropower projects, water storage reservoirs and canal projects to be completed in 3 phases to address the nations urgent water and electricity crisis. It aims to increase the nation’s water storage capacity to 90 days, improve efficiency usage of water on agricultural land by 20% and ensure access to clean water for drinking and using to all Pakistani’s as right now 21 million Pakistani’s don’t have access to clean water.
The Diamer-Bhasha Dam is one of the largest projects the government has undertaken in its history, under shadowed only by Tarbela Dam and Mangla Dam. Though construction started late, we hope for its eventual completion as soon as possible and hope for other large infrastructural projects to take place after it, as slowly yet steadily we are on the road to progress.
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