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Timeline: Bhasha Dam ‘Inaugurated’ For The Umpteenth Time

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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday kicked off the much-delayed construction of Pakistan’s third-largest dam, Diamer-Bhasha Dam, amid protests that the dam will adversely affect Indus River Delta.

The idea to build a dam on Indus River in the area that lies between Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Diamer, Gilgit-Baltistan, was first proposed in the 1980s. However, due to constant delays owing to poor planning, it has been almost four decades but the idea hasn’t materialised yet.

Feasibility Study In 1984:

According to The News, Montreal Engineering Co (Canada) conducted a feasibility study in 1984, which was then used to prepare a report in 2004.  “Later, Lahmeyer of Germany was appointed in July 2005, to undertake detailed project designing and preparation of tender documents for international competitive bidding.”

Musharraf Inaugurates Dam In 2006:

In 2006, then president Gen Musharraf said the construction of Bhasha Dam would start in February.  “This is time for decision. This is time for action. We cannot delay anymore to build big water reservoirs,” he had said in an address to the nation over radio and television. The project launched in April 2016 remained delayed for many years to come.

PPP Kicks Off Construction In 2011:

In Oct 2011, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani inaugurated the construction of the mega-dam project for a second time in an effort to meet Pakistan’s rising energy needs. Gilani had told participants at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Diamer Bhasha Dam in the Gilgit Baltistan region that the dam is the largest development project in Pakistan’s history.

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Nawaz Ramps Up Construction Pace:

The project, however, remained at the backburner until the government of Nawaz Sharif. In May 2015, the elder Sharif directed WAPDA to accelerate the pace of work. In Dec 2016, he also approved, in principle, the financing plan for the dam and ordered the secretary of water and power to start work on the dam before the end of 2017.

However, not much progress was made during the PML-N’s tenure. In July 2020, the PTI government inaugurated the dam again, as Imran Khan vowed that he would build Pakistan’s third-largest dam in nine years.

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