The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued directives that the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams should start immediately, and appealed to the general public, including Pakistanis residing abroad, to donate for the cause.
The apex court formed a committee under the chairmanship of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) chief to monitor the progress of construction and directed that an account be opened with the SC’s registrar in which all donations will be collected. It also said that all those donating for the cause will not be asked of their sources of income.
Moreover, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar initiated the donation process by announcing Rs1 million donation for the cause during the hearing of the case pertaining to the construction of Kalabagh dam.
“It was said that ‘even the Supreme Court’s father’ cannot construct dams,” the CJP noted, reminding the naysayers that the Constitution had given the court the power to make it happen.
Justice Nisar hoped that “the passion that was seen during the 1965 war [with India] would be visible again for the construction of dams”.
The four-member special bench, comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Muneeb Akhtar, ordered the Wapda chairman-led committee to present a report after completing the formalities within three weeks.
Earlier, court aide Mujeeb Pirzada said that only the benefits of Kalabagh dam were being described ignoring the fact that there were some serious demerits to its construction.
Pirzada explained that the construction of the dam would mean that the supply of water to other areas would be affected. He also claimed that the construction of Kalabagh dam would adversely impact sugarcane and rice production.
“But dams are the nation’s need and we need to build them,” the CJP responded at Pirzada’s concerns about livelihoods of farmers being affected because of the dam.
Meanwhile, the secretary finance urged the court to issue an order to increase the price of water for agriculture to Rs1,500 per acre which, he said, would bring annual revenues of Rs70 billion which could be used to construct a dam in 10 years.
The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) briefed the court that the country has a storage capacity of 13.7 million acre-feet (MAF) of the 138 MAF of water flowing into the country. The briefing said that the construction of two more dams will generate a capacity to store additional 7 MAF of water.
It noted that the country’s needs stand at 25 MAF of water and a new dam would be required every ten years after the construction of two new dams.
Details of dams revealed in today’s hearing:
- Diamer-Bhasha dam: To be built in KP and Gilgit-Baltistan falling in Kohistan and Bhasha areas. Will have the capacity to store 6.4 MAF of water and create 4,500MW electricity.
- Mohmand dam: To be built on Swat river in Manda area. Wil have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and create 800MW electricity.
“We should have confidence in ourselves,” the CJP said, adding: “It is possible that we get more money than the required amount.” Justice Nisar also disclosed that Rs900 billion “are going to arrive soon” but said that matter should be kept secret for now.
During his briefing, former Wapda chairman Shamsul Mulk said that while 46,000 dams had been constructed in the past century across the globe, Pakistan had only constructed three
The chief justice asked him whether the construction of Kalabagh was inevitable, at which Mulk responded that Kalabagh dam was the need of the hour for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Justice Nisar then said that because of it being controversial, “we should look at the other two dams” at which Mulk said that it would be good if Diamer-Bhasha and Mohamand dams are constructed.
“We are thankful that you have consented to the construction of the other two dams,” he told the former Wapda chairman, adding that his expertise would be required in future.
Towards the end of the hearing, Attorney General Khalid Jawed said that the debate around the dams would continue unless the court issues an order for their construction. He added that the bureaucracy needs to brought into action and that the institutions would have to act if the court issues an order.
The court then ordered to immediately begin construction of the two dams.