Islamabad on Wednesday granted a contract worth 442 billion Pakistani rupees ($5.85 billion) to a consortium of Chinese and Pakistani companies for construction of a major dam to cope with the country's growing energy requirements.
The contract was signed at a ceremony in the capital Islamabad between the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), and a joint venture of Power China, and Frontier Works Organization – a subsidiary of Pakistan's Army – for construction of a diversion system, main dam, and access bridge of Diamer-Basha dam, apart from a 21 megawatt (MW) hydropower project.
Amir Bashir Chaudhry, chief executive officer of the project, and Yang Jiandu of Power China signed the agreement on behalf of WAPDA and the joint venture respectively, according to a statement by the Water and Power Ministry.
WAPDA has already awarded a consultancy contract of the project to Diamer Basha Consultants Group (DBCG) worth 27.182 billion rupees ($168.8 million). The consultancy agreement includes construction design, construction supervision, and contract administration of the Diamer-Basha Dam project, the statement added.
The development came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the start of construction of the much-awaited dam in northern Pakistan.
The $14 billion dam, to be constructed on the River Indus in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, which borders China, is set to produce 4,500 MW of affordable electricity, said the statement.
"The 6.4 MAF [million acre foot] water storage capacity of the dam will reduce the current water shortage in the country of 12 MAF to 6.1 MAF," the statement said, adding that it will also add 35 years to the life of Tarbela Dam – one of the two major dams in Pakistan – by reducing sedimentation.
Some 78.5 billion rupees ($1.03 billion) will be spent on social development of the area around the dam, mainly on resettlement of the population.
"It will also be a major source of flood mitigation and save billions worth of damages caused by floods each year," the statement said.
Earlier, Asim Saleem Bajwa, special assistant to the prime minister on information, called the announcement "historic."
"Announcing to start construction of Diamer Bhasha dam today is a historic news for all generations of Pakistan, a huge stimulus for our economy, create 16,500 jobs, generate 4,500 MW hydro power, and irrigate 1.2 million acre agriculture land," he tweeted on Monday.
By Aamir Latif in Karachi, Pakistan