NA committee ponders over Diamer Basha Dam

Staff Report
Tuesday - January 2, 2018
ISLAMABAD: A meeting of national assembly (NA) standing committee on Kashmir affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) was held on Monday under the chairmanship of Malik Ibrar Ahmed, whereat the committee deliberated on Diamer Basha Dam, education, health, jirgas, illegal wood cutting, forestation and afforestation; an official statement said.

According to detail, main agenda were construction of Diamer Basha Dam (DBD) and forests-related issues in GB.

Water and power development authority (WAPDA) gave a detailed presentation on DBD. It is a roller compacted concrete (RCC) dam rising to the maximum height of 272 meter.

Its PC-I was approved in 2009 at the cost of $11.17 billion which was revised to $14.29 billion in November, 2017. Its completion period is 8.5 years. The project was approved unanimously by council of common interests (CCI) in 2010.

It will add cheap 18,100 gigawatt hours (GWh) on annual basis, to the national grid. Having live storage capacity of 6.4 million acre feet (MAF), it will help in meeting the irrigational needs during the Kharif as well as Rabi cropping seasons.

Moreover, besides flood mitigation, it will enhance the life of Tarbela Dam by 35 years by reducing sediment accumulation.

The project is mainly located in GB. However, it will also cover some area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Total required land is 37,419 acres; out of which 31,696 acres (85 percent) have been acquired.

To win the confidence of local population, 44 different schemes in education, health and heritage sectors are underway. 8 jirgas have been held, to address the grievances of the affected for their resettlement under the composite model villages (CMVs) at Harpan Das, Sagachal Das and Thak Das which are to be developed.

GB local administration is expected to finalise the resettlement/allotment process in due course of time. After the approval of financing strategy by the prime minister, the project can be initiated as early as August, 2018.

The Committee showed serious concern regarding the sufferings of the affected. The committee desired to hold its next meeting in GB wherein the GB chief minister, GB chief secretary, concerned members of legislative assembly (MLAs) will also be invited. The representatives of affected will also be discussed to know the level of their satisfaction on the compensation plan.

Next followed the presentation on curbing the menace of illegal cutting and smuggling of forest wood in GB. Natural forests are spread over 2,492 kilometers (km) that is 3.5 percent of the total land cover (72,900 km) of GB.

After promulgation of GB (self-governance and empowerment) order 2009, the subject of forestry was transferred to GB council.

There are two types of forests, the private forests and protected forests, wherein harvesting is regulated by Gilgit private forest regulations 1970 and concession rules for protected forests 1983 respectively.

Ban, imposed on legal harvesting in 1993, resulted into illegal cutting encouraging smuggling of timber. It not only reduced forests revenues but also affected health of forests through deforestation and degradation.

It has been curbed through community based sustainable forest management. Cutting is managed keeping in view economic needs of community as well as regeneration cycle of forests.

Severe action is taken against illegal cutting. The offenders are arrested and jailed. Under forest act, 1927, divisional forest officers have magisterial powers (first class). In the revised forest act 2017, both the fine and imprisonment period stand enhanced.

Afforestation is given due priority. During the spring season almost, 1.00 million sapling are planted through green Pakistan programme social forestry is encouraged. It is inevitable to ensure sustainable forest management.

The committee emphasised to curb the illegal cutting of forests through speedy trials. Every effort should be made to popularize forestry in view of its economic as well as environmental value for the country.

The meeting was attended by Khalil George, Malik Abdul Ghaffar Dogar, Asiya Naz Tanoli, Shamas-un-Nissa, Shazia Sobia, Junaid Akbar, Syed Waseem Hussain, Molvi Agha Muhammad, Ch. Muhammad Barjees Tahir, federal minister for Kashmir affairs and GB and senior officers of the ministry of Kashmir affairs and GB, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government and GB government.