That we were in desperate need of more dams was self-evident 30 years ago. The only reason we do not have the dams that we knew we needed is the serial incompetence of successive federal and provincial governments. The Bhasha Dam, which has been touted as a panacea for many of our ills in the power sector, has now run into trouble so deep and complex, with donors disappearing with frightening rapidity, that Wapda have come up with ‘Plan B’. Allegedly. It plans to raise the $3bn to fund further construction by mortgaging its assets – the Tarbela, Mangla and Ghazi Barotha power complexes. Wapda claims that it is determined to complete the project without the help of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or the World Bank (WB). Reading between the lines of the statement by Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Dr Nadeemul Haq one realises that Plan B is at the conceptual rather than the implementation stage – in other words, there is no final ‘Plan B’, merely an acknowledgement that it is about time we had one.
The key question that needs to be asked from the Planning Commission is: why were they sleeping? And why did they not have a contingency Plan-B ready, just in case the original plan failed? Dr Nadeemul Haq tells us that there has been a meeting to discuss the matter and Plan B needs further refinement and Wapda was going to contact ‘financial experts to finalise the financial plan for the project.’ Why, if we may ask, has this not already been done? Note that his words are all couched in the future tense, indicating that Plan B is still at the back-of-an-envelope stage. Further, he did little to encourage confidence in Plan B by saying that mortgaging Wapda assets was ‘not so simple keeping in view the current global sentiments about Pakistan ’. In other words who would want to buy futures in a trio of clapped-out dams that any financial analyst worth their salt would consider past their sell-by date anyway? Tenuous as it is, any plan is better than no plan and it is to be finalised within six months. Simply put, we cannot afford that this project fails. But there are a range of ‘if’s’ before it that must be satisfied before it is fully secure.