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Pakistan goes ahead with Diamer-Basha Dam in POK with China’s Collusion:

 Paper No. 6584                                 Dated 22-May-2020
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
 
On 14th May, Pakistan signed a Rs 442 Billion (Pak. Rupees) contract for a joint venture with China Power and Frontier Works Organisation (FWC).  The Pakistan Company FWC is a commercial arm of Pakistan Military.
 
This was gone through despite India’s objections in the past and was once again reiterated the next day.  
 
The Chinese Firm will have a 70 percent stake and the Frontier Works company will have a 30 percent stake.  
 
Earlier, Pakistan tried to include the construction of the Dam  under the Belt & Road initiative but was turned down by China.  The project which was in the making since 2010 but could not take off for various reasons as both ADB and the World Bank refused to get involved in a project of this magnitude in a disputed territory.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan took a personal interest in the construction of the dam and had introduced a voluntary contribution scheme for the construction of the dam.  The amount so received from the public is also being used in the project.  
 
The fact that the Chinese Power Company holds a seventy percent stakes in the project is one of those often noticed phenomenon of predatory moves of Chinese companies in times of distress as is happening in other parts of the World too due to slump in economy amidst the Wuhan Virus Pandemic.
 
China Power will also construct the diversionary dam, main dam, a bridge and also a 21 MW dam to produce power for the project.  China Power was involved in the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China and over 17000 Chinese workers are expected to land up in the sparsely inhabited Bashar region of Khyber Pakthunkwa Province. They will stay for almost 8 years till the dam construction in completed in 2028.
 
The project involves the construction of an RCC dam ( Roller Compact Concrete) to a height of 272 metres that will result in a reservoir of eight million acre feet and potential for generation of over 4500 MW of electricity;
 
It is mentioned that the reservoir could flood 100 Km of Karakoram Highway and many villages will disappear. A total of 31000 persons living in the area will be displaced.  The reservoir will also submerge tens and thousands rock carvings and other artefacts dating back to 6th millennium.
 
It is said by experts that never before in the history of the World an RCC dam of this size has ever been built or attempted as the present one in an “unforgiving “ condition..  This region sits on top of the main Central Asian Fault line and is an Earth quake prone region. One may recall the severe devastating  earthquake in the Nepal region in 2015 and its after shocks, the result of plate tectonics where the Indian Plate meets the Asian Plate. 
 
There is likely to be many environmental objections, The Gilgit-Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency has already complained about the expected local climatic changes due to the massive reservoir being created.
 
Curiously, the Pakistan Frontier Works company related to the Pak Army does not havea  single “large dam expert” though it has many engineers in its Roster.
 
The Province of Sind which is already complaining of not getting a fair share of water from the upper Riparian Punjab will be affected as the timely release of the water upstream will be decided by the Federal Government which is alleged to have Punjab as its priority.
 
The debate whether to go for large or smaller dams in the unstable regions is still going on.  India is also planning to have a large storage dam on the Dibang river as also a project in Bhutan but these are not as big as the projected Diamer Basha Dam! One example of the limits of study of the structural changes underneath the earth, is the delay both in time and money in the construction of Punatsangchu II of Bhutan where the landslip in one side of the dam is still to be managed with all the expertise avaiabe with Government of India and abroad.  Playing with nature is to say the least dangerous!
 
What should also be worrying is the general predatory nature of Chinese investments, Will the Project go finally in the Hambantota way when Pakistan is unable to fulfill its financial obligations? A 630 million Dollar scam has just been unearthed in a project coming under CPEC with HSR a Chinese Company and the Port Qasim Electircals.  The set up costs were inflated deliberately and Imran Khan does not know what to do with the report as it involves China!
 
Second is the insufficient expertise and experience in building large concrete storage dams in unstable regions. I recall the last statement on the documentary on the origin of the Corona Virus  where Joshua Phillip who presents the case warns of the lessons of the present Wuhan  Virus where one should be wary of repercussions of ever expanding scientific research and developments that go against the laws of nature! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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