Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman retired Lt Gen Muzamil Hussain during a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday revealed that Pakistan wastes water worth Rs25 billion every year.

Hussain, while briefing the committee, said that although Pakistan receives 145 million acre feet of water every year. However, only 14m acre feet of water is preserved.

The chairman said that due to soil gathering at the base of Tarbela Dam, the storage capacity of the dam has decreased by 36 per cent. Therefore, constructing the Diamer-Bhasha dam is necessary, he added.

Tarbela, one of the world’s largest earth-filled dams, was completed in 1978 with the World Bank’s assistance under the Indus Water Treaty signed by Pakistan and India.

Owing to continuous silting and sedimentation, the dam’s storage capacity has declined from 9.6 million acres feet (MAF) to about 6.6 MAF.

Hussain regretted that only two dams had been built in the country over the past 70 years.

An independent Chinese consultant hired by Wapda to conduct a feasibility study on desilting of the Tarbela dam claimed that desiltation of the dam is not a viable option either economically or technically, and may damage the country’s largest power house and reservoir, a senior government official shared with Dawn in an earlier report.

The official said the feasibility study concluded that instead of undertaking such a mammoth exercise it would be more economical to build a new dam of the same size and capacity.

Read more: ‘Tarbela desilting to be costlier than new dam’

The Wapda chairman in today's briefing informed the committee that the cost of the Neelum-Jhelum power project was Rs4bn in the beginning. Now the project's costs have increased to Rs500bn, he said.

Hussain revealed that all of Wapda projects had incurred a total of Rs300bn in debt.

Annually, about Rs40bn is repaid, of which Rs5bn consists of loans, while Rs35bn comprises annual interest payments, Hussain said. Total annual payments come to about Rs57bn when the project cost is added to this amount, the chairman told the committee.

Rs152bn was paid last year, he said, which was separate from the total debt cost.

Three sukook bonds have been issued since 1987 to raise capital for various Wapda projects, the chairman said. The first bond worth Rs8bn was issued to finance the Mangla Dam, the second worth Rs25bn was issued to raise money for the

The chairman added that since 1987, three sukook bonds have been paid off. The first bond was worth Rs8bn and was issued for Mangla Dam, and the second was worth Rs25bn, he said.

Rs41bn in debt has been paid off against the three bonds with an interest rate of 7.5pc, Hussain said.

PPP's Syed Naveed Qamar said the government had passed on the costs of water supply onto citizens via imposition of tariffs.

Both Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid took issue with work on the Neelum-Jhelum power project.

Rashid said Rs41bn had been paid against "the world's only project initiated without conducting a geological survey", as it stood at the fault line for an earthquake. The area where the project is situated was struck by an earthquake in 2005, a year after work began on it, he said.

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