BEIJING: In a major leapfrog in cementing the Belt and Road initiative, China and Pakistan Saturday signed a historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) to fund and develop Islamabad’s five big water reservoirs with an estimated cost of US$ 50 billion, capable of generating around 60,000MW of hydroelectric power. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif witnessed the signing of an MoU regarding the roadmap for power projects under CPEC that was signed by Water and Power Secretary Yousuf Naseem Khokhar and Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan Sun Weidong.
Under the MoU, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) would oversee building and funding of five dams, including Diamer-Bhasha, Pattan, Thacoat, Bunji and Dasau dams. This would be China’s biggest-ever investment in Pakistan besides already committed projects worth US$ 57 billion under the CPEC. This is for the first time that Pakistan has adopted a policy shift in the building of its hydroelectric reservoirs by inviting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), as China’s private sector would be investing around $50 billion for several hydel power projects with regards to the North Indus River cascade which also includes Diamer-Bhasha Dam.
On the occasion, China’s NEA hosted Diamer-Bhasha Project Conference at Beijing where the heads and representatives of power sector companies in China gave presentations on their study of the Bhasha Dam project and called for a deeper study on the project, owing to its crucial nature for Pakistan. In this regard, Water and Power secretary Yousuf Naseem also gave a briefing to the Pakistani and Chinese delegations at Beijing on Saturday soon after the MoU was signed. Diamer-Bhasha Dam would cost around US$12 billion and would be completed in nine years.
Chinese experts in their feasibility survey have identified the potential of producing up to 60,000MW of hydroelectric power mostly in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province. Around 45,000MW of this potential power has been identified – the Indus River Cascade, which begins from Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan and runs through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. China’s NEA has been working on the roadmap of several hydel projects in order to help Pakistan meet its growing energy demands.
The prime minister on the occasion hailed the contribution of the NEA in handling Pakistan’s energy projects being built under the CPEC. He said Pakistan not only required support in the energy sector for its economic development and long-term prosperity, but also needed mega initiatives to improve its water storage capacity.
“Therefore, development of the North Indus Cascade is a major focus of my government, and the construction of the Bhasha Dam is the single most important initiative in this behalf,” the premier said. He said water and food security was of paramount importance for Pakistan keeping in view the challenges posed by climate change.
According to exclusive documents available with Pakistan Today, Pakistan is eyeing around 44,000MW generation only through Diamer-Bhasha Dam. Other than power generation, this dam would also provide eight billion million-acre feet water for agriculture sector, which would largely help the country grow foodstuff under its food security plan.