ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday directed the authorities concerned to resolve the lingering issue of land acquisition for the Dasu hydroelectric dam at the earliest.
This intervention was made after the World Bank warned about possible delays and cost escalation in the $4.3 billion project.
Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif had performed the groundbreaking ceremony of the 2,160 megawatt project in June 2014. However, the authorities concerned have failed to complete land acquisition in this regard.
The World Bank had already approved a loan of $588.4 million for the project. It warned Pakistan that further delays in land acquisition would result in the cost of the project to escalate significantly and asked the government to intervene in the matter to save the project from being completely derailed.
During a meeting on issues related to the ministry of water resources, the prime minister was briefed about the bottlenecks encountered in the construction of the project, specifically disputes over land acquisition and settlement of displaced people affected from the project.
“Issues must be resolved on a priority basis in consultation with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government after taking into account legitimate demands of the affectees,” the prime minister directed officials of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).
The prime minister also emphasised that the Land Acquisition Act of 1984 should be revisited to make it more relevant with the current needs.
Among those who attended the meeting included ministers for finance, planning, and power and senior officers of ministries of water resources, economic affairs division, food security and research and the chairman of WAPDA.
Urban Water Schemes
A statement issued after the meeting stated that during the meeting, the PM also directed the ministry of water resources and the Planning Division to coordinate with provincial governments and formulate a comprehensive plan for initiating urban water schemes in all major cities on a priority basis to avoid further depletion of underground water table.
According to a government minister, who attended the meeting, the PM was informed that Pakistan’s underground water table was at lowest in the entire South Asian region.
The Prime Minister was also briefed about the overall situation regarding the domestic water availability, national storage capacity and issues faced in ensuring water security for the country’s growing population.
The PM ordered the authorities concerned to devise a plan along with a legislative framework for ensuring maximum utilisation of surface water and reversing the trend of unabated pumping of groundwater.
Khan also urged the Punjab and federal governments to immediately work out a water supply scheme for Rawalpindi and Islamabad respectively.
Participants of the meeting were informed that the country’s current water storage capacity was around 13.7 million acre-foot (MAF), far below international standards and it needed to be enhanced urgently. They were also informed that there was an urgent need to check unregulated extraction of ground water which was resulting in fast depletion of aquifers.
Following the briefing, the prime minister underscored the need for an integrated planning and coordination between relevant government departments and other stakeholders while planning and execution of major projects of national importance.
The Prime Minister also called for devising a comprehensive plan for promoting off-grid solutions, including harnessing of solar and wind potential of the country.