ISLAMABAD, Aug 16: Pakistan has sought $10 billion assistance from the World Bank for hydropower projects and large dams to meet future energy needs of its growing economy, Dawn has learnt.

Officials said on Tuesday that the government had recently requested the World Bank to provide the funds directly or through other international financial institutions to develop the country’s hydropower infrastructure.

The bank, sources said, responded positively but wanted to have a detailed presentation on the funding requirements before making a commitment. Accordingly, it was agreed that the matter would be taken up during the ongoing visit of World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz.

The country needed the $10 billion assistance in the next 15 to 18 years, they said.

“Pakistan wants to construct a big dam and needs the World Bank funding,” said an official.

The sources said Water and Power Secretary Ashfaq Mehmood would give a presentation on the country’s hydropower potential and major irrigation-cum-power projects to the World Bank team led by Mr Woldfowitz at the economic affairs division on Wednesday.

They said the government team would not name any large dam in the presentation but present a number of medium-to-large hydropower and a couple of irrigation projects.

Water and Power Minister Liaquat Ali Jatoi who was in Karachi came to Islamabad on Tuesday to brief President Gen Pervez Musharraf on issues related to the sector, they said.

This was followed by a meeting between President Musharraf and the World Bank chief. The meeting was also attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The prime minister has announced that the bank has agreed to provide $1.5 billion annual assistance for infrastructure and social sector development.

The sources said the government had informed the World Bank that it wanted to shift dependence from thermal power to hydropower because of rising international oil prices.

The country’s average hydropower production cost, they said, was about 80 paisa per unit against the sale price of about Rs3, which was a guarantee that the bank will not face loan recovery problem.

Funding for the Tarbela Dam’s construction in the 1960’s was provided by the World Bank and was repaid within the stipulated time, they said.

Pakistan is again seeking World Bank’s assistance for its water and power sector infrastructure development because of economic growth and higher energy requirements.

An official statement said President Musharraf while welcoming the World Bank chief and his delegation appreciated its support for various sectors, including poverty alleviation, water, power, energy and infrastructure projects.

He informed the delegation about different economic measures and policies of the government, resulting in an investment-friendly environment in the country, it said.

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