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May 30, 2020

Damned to fail

Newspost

 
May 30, 2020

This letter refers to the editorial 'The dam deal' (May 16). The editorial reveals that the contract for civil and electro-mechanical works on the Diamir-Basha-Dam has been awarded to a joint venture of Power China and Frontier Works Organization (FWO) for Rs 442 billion. The dam when completed will be among the largest in the world, capable of storing an extra 10 cubic kilometres of water, and a power generation capacity of 4,500-4,800 megawatts. The project has stalled for nearly two two decades due to location, design, and cost related issues, many of which have still not been resolved. The driving force behind the project’s recent revival is a directive from the prime minister to Wapda, calling for an immediate start to construction work.

A day earlier, Suleman Najib Khan, in his article 'Review the dam' (May 15, 2020) criticised the decision to use a rigid Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) structure for a dam located in one of the most active earthquake zones. In addition, the writer mentions that the dam’s original Concrete Faced Rock Filled (CFRD) blueprint not only provided more structural flexibility but was also much cheaper. The dams new structure brings little in the way of new be new benefits, with the RCC blueprint only increasing electricity generation by 1100 megawatts and water storage by 1 MAF, while costing billions more in logistics and construction. Hence, the new design should be discarded on a marginal cost basis. I request the senior economists of the country to express their views on this issue and force the government to pursue the safer, more economical option. It would not be out of place to mention that foreign contractors always prefer high cost mega projects as there is more profit in them.

Abdul Majeed

Islamabad