Kalabagh dam in Pakistan, which has been kept in abeyance by each successive government, has once again become headline news as the Prime Minister has announced that the scheme will go ahead. The provinces of Sindh and North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) are objecting to the construction of the dam, which will be built for power and irrigation purposes.

Pakistan’s opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, has launched a campaign against the decision to build the dam on the Indus river. Reports state that she is concerned over the fact that the project will apparently displace over 30,000 people and restrict water flow into the Sindh province.

Thousands of people are reported to have rallied in protest under Bhutto’s leadership in August, leading to accusations of hypocrisy — Bhutto apparently wanted to implement the project when she was in power.

However, Prime Minister Muhammed Nawaz Sharif recently said that the construction of the dam will bring a new era of development by ushering in a green revolution in the country. It will provide 3600MW of cheaper power for both industrial and domestic consumers and lead to self-sufficiency in food, helping to control the devastation caused by floods every year. Sharif went on to add that the dam is a unique project as it has been prepared twice by world- renowned experts and was found to be economically viable.

According to the Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) the Kalabagh dam will cost US$6B and take two years to construct. WAPDA also said that when completed the project will not affect the provinces of Sindh and NWFP, as feared by local people. Indeed, Sindh will get more water for irrigation than any other area.

Sharif added that he ‘de-plored attempts being made by certain vested interests to unduly politicise a project of such great national importance’.

•WAPDA has been assured by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for disbursement of US$250M for the Ghazi Barotha hydro power project, subject to the avoidance of unnecessary delay in the completion of the project.

ADB had expressed serious concern over the slow pace of work on the 1450MW project in Pakistan, and threatened the government with discontinuation of disbursement of funds, WAPDA sources claim.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2002.