Senators express concern over slow pace of work on the mega hydropower project.
Senators express concern over slow pace of work on the mega hydropower project.

ISLAMABAD: A Senate Panel on Thursday expressed concern over the slow pace of progress to acquire land for Rs510 billion Dasu Hydropower Project and sought an an explanation from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

The Senate Standing Committee on Water Resources led by Senator Shamim Afridi was informed that only 7.5 per cent, of total 9,875 acres of land required for the project, had so far been acquired.

It was reported that the cost of land acquisition had also increased by around 95pc from Rs19bn to Rs37bn.

The committee was informed by Water and Power Development Authority Member (Wapda) member that the total capacity of Dasu project was 4,320MW and it will be completed in two phases.

The project will have 12 units of 360MW each. In the first phase, 2,160MW electricity will be generated by 2023. The work on the first phase of the project was launched in June 2017 whereas the development under the second phase will begin in 2023.

On the issue of land acquisition, it was informed that Senior Member Revenue Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had promised that the district administration will acquire 1,247 acres of land in priority area within six months and the remaining land within in one year of revised land acquisition plan.

However, of the total, only 740 acres had so far been acquired. The meeting was informed that 866 acres were required for main civil works, 1,121 acres for preparatory work and 7,888 acres for reservoir area.

The Wapda member water told the committee that Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) had approved the land acquisition rates in 2015 but those were rejected by the land owners. The KP government had then constituted a steering committee and through negotiations with the locals fixed new rates to purchase the land.

As per the revised plan, cost of acquisition of land increased from Rs19bn to Rs37bn. The increase in the cost of land (Rs18bn) will be borne by Wapda from its equity and local commercial financing. The new prices had been approved by both Ecnec and Federal Cabinet, he informed. The jump in land prices jacked up the total cost of Dasu project from Rs486bn to Rs510bn.

The committee was informed that they are facing problems in purchasing land as for civil and preparatory. Committee chairman said for the resolution of land acquisition issue, chief secretary should be convened to the next meeting; otherwise the land rates will further go up.

Regarding Greater Thal Canal, the committee was informed that the PC-I of the project was approved in 2002 with an estimated cost of Rs30bn. The committee was told that Khushab, Layyah, Bhakkar, Jhang and Muzafargarh would be the main beneficiaries of the project. The committee was told that Munkira branch of the project was completed in 2008 and 30pc of land was irrigated during past decade. Moreover, work on the Chobara branch of the project will start next year.

The committee showed concern that despite the construction of canal; the land was not developed for agriculture. The committee also summoned chief secretary Punjab, irrigation secretary and secretary agriculture to the next meeting.

On Naulong dam, the committee was informed that the Planning Commission had imposed ban on further expenditure of the dam.

It was told that Rs2bn were earmarked for the project but work has not been started on the project. The project was supposed to be completed in four years but so far less than 20pc funds have been released.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2019