By Dr.Saeed Ahmed Ali
LAHORE, Oct 11 (APP):Hydropower is considered the cheapest, safest and most environment friendly power generation system in the world. Pakistan has a hydel potential of 60,000 MW (according to WAPDA report document), however, at present Pakistan is utilizing only 6595 MW of its total available capacity.
Following the recommendations of the policymakers and under an integrated plan to address the threat of power outages in the coming years, the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek e-Insaf (PTI) government, has geared up working on completion of various important multi-pronged strategy power projects.
Pakistan is placed on rank three among countries facing acute water shortage, says an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report.
Therefore, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, PTI government has launched two mega projects including Diamer-Bhasha dam and Mohmand dam (scheduled to be completed by 2024), in a short period of 12 months.
The government had already taken fast track working on the Neelum-Jhelum, Tarbela 4th extension, Golen Gol and other hydropower projects which helped Wapda earn Rs80bn by December 2019.
These profits are being used to increase its financial feedback to three mega projects, including Diamer-Bhasha, Mohmand and Dasu dams.
On May 13, 2020, PTI government had signed a whopping Rs 442 billion contract with a joint venture of a Chinese state-run firm China Power and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.
The eight million acre feet (MAF) reservoir of the Diamer Bhasha dam with 272-metre height would be the tallest roller compact concrete (RCC) dam in the world. According to Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) study document, Diamer Bhasha dam project is vital for energy irrigation and food security of Pakistan, which is being constructed on River Indus, 315km upstream of Tarbela Dam, 180 kilometer downstream of Gilgit, and 40 kilometer downstream of Chilas town.
Diamer-Bhasha Dam (DBD) Project would produce 4800 megawatts of electricity through hydro-power generation, store an extra 10.5 cubic kilometers (8,500,000 acre·ft) of water for Pakistan that would be used for irrigation and drinking, while extending the life of Tarbela Dam, which is located downstream by 35 years, the document reads.
The mega project is likely to be completed in April 2028 to usher in an era of socio economic development in the country besides bringing progress and prosperity for Gilgit Baltistan, it says.
Muhammad Umer Chaudhry, a noted engineer, told APP that the DMB dam would help mitigate flood losses and save billions in damages which were caused by flash-floods every year.
The 2010 torrential floods inflicted a cumulative financial loss of US$ 38 billion to the country, he informed. The tallest Roller Compact concrete (RCC) dam (272 Meters) would become the main storage dam for Pakistan, alleviating water shortages and boosting agriculture in Pakistan, he said while replying to a query.
Wapda spokesperson Muhammad Abid Rana told APP that the Government has commenced this mega project despite serious economic challenges, the country was confronted with.
Diamer Bhasha Dam Project would stimulate economic activities in the far-flung and backward areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, providing as many as 16550 job opportunities to the locals and Pakistani engineers, he added.
He said that construction of the dam would help bring as many as 1.23 million acres of additional land under cultivation, following which annual agricultural benefits of the project had been estimated at Rs. 279 billion.
He said that electricity of 18,100 GWh (billion units) through a clean, renewable system would be added to the National Grid annually with benefits of about Rs.290 billion to the national exchequer every year.
Besides, an additional electricity of approx. 2,520 GWh at existing projects including Tarbela, Jinnah , Chashma and Ghazi Barotha was being planned to be generated further, adding electricity of approx 7,500 GWh would be generated at future projects including Dasu, Patan and Thakot, he said.
To a query he said that in Diamer district, currently 44 schemes of Education, health and livelihood plan worth Rs 201.47 million to construct protection bunds, reconstruction of Irrigation Channels, Development of Recreational Park at Chilas, Upgradation of Govt High Schools at Shahi Mahal Tehsil Darel & Lark Tehsil Tangir District Diamer had already been completed.
He said that construction of the dam would provide jobs to more than 16,500 people directly including 1050 Pakistani engineers and 15500 lab experts and skilled construction staff. He said that the mega construction project would provide the local people with ample job opportunities, adding local materials and expertise would be used during construction of the dam.
The project would utilize a large quantity of cement and steel which would boost our industry – as 2.03 mn ton of cement and approx. 1 mn ton of steel is needed during its construction, he said.
Member Indus River System Authority (IRSA) Punjab Rao Irshad Ali Khan while talking to APP said that construction of DMB dam would enable Pakistan to streamline its off-set water induced variations in water flow, adding the project would add 35 years to the life of Tarbela dam by reducing sedimentation. DMB dam reservoir with a storage of 6.4 MAF would help augment the irrigation levels released from Tarbela dam, he explained. Moreover, Rs 78 bn would be spent for the welfare of the people of Diamer-Bhasha,he added.