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ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali told the National Assembly on Friday that the government would start work on the Diamer-Bhasha dam next year, adding that there was corruption in every power distribution company in the country.

Answering questions pertaining to electricity during the question hour, he said, “the Diamer-Bhasha dam will be the government’s gift to the people of Pakistan”.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has recently approved the financing plan for the Diamer-Bhasha dam. The dam is expected to provide 8.1 MAF of gross storage of which 6.4 MAF will be live storage with a capacity to produce 4,500MW of cheap and clean energy.

The dam remains in the preliminary stage of construction despite the passage of ten years. It was announced in 2006 but the foundation stone was laid in 2011 by then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

So far, the dam’s construction has been hampered by financial constraints and political apathy. Once constructed, it would be the highest earth-filled dam in the world and will have the capacity to generate 4,500MW. It is expected to cost $14 billion and is scheduled for completion by 2020.

Minister says the project will be a government’s ‘gift’ to people

Discussing other power projects, the minister said that the government had initiated several power projects and that electricity tariff would decrease after their completion. “A number of low-cost power projects have been initiated which will reduce electricity charges,” he added.

He said the government had launched nine small dam projects, adding that after the 18th Amendment, provinces could also construct small dams.

Responding to a written question regarding corruption in electricity departments, the minister said: “The problem of corruption prevails in all power distribution companies.”

He said his ministry had taken action against several corrupt officials. In Karachi, assistance was sought from the Rangers in cracking down on corrupt elements, he said. “We have taken stern action against 90 officials and over 2,000 cases are under trial,” he added.

Mr Abid rejected MNA Jamshed Dasti’s claim regarding political victimisation of the Muzaffargarh distribution company, adding that he had not ordered any Water and Power Distribution Authority official to take undue action against a political rival. He said, however, action was being taken in cases of power theft irrespective of political affiliation.

In a written reply to a question raised by MNA Sher Akbar Khan, Khawaja Asif, the minister for water and power, said no corruption case had been registered against employees of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company in the last five hours.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2016