Diamer Bhasha Dam – The Controversy Behind

Have you ever heard about this controversial dam in Pakistan? Do you know the reason behind this controversy? There’s a long story behind it that needs to be unveiled for those unaware. And even if you know about it already, you’ll be able to discover some interesting facts in this article. But before we dig into the article and walk through the complexities of this dam’s controversy, let’s glimpse what the Diamer Bhasha dam is and where it is located.

Diamer Bhasha Dam is a high-arch gravity dam on the River Indus near the town of Diamer in the Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan.

The dam is currently under construction, and when completed, it will be the tallest roller-compacted concrete dam in the world.

The Diamer Bhasha Dam has been a controversial project since its inception. The dam is located in a seismically active zone, and there are concerns that it could collapse during an earthquake. There are also environmental concerns about the dam’s impact on the local ecosystem.

The Pakistani government has been struggling to finance the project, and as of 2016, only 20% of the required funding had been raised.

The dam’s primary purpose is water storage for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation.

WAPDA presented the proposal for Diamer Bhasha Dam as part of Pakistan’s Water Vision 2025 in 2001.

Let’s move further and see why this dam hasn’t been completed yet.

What Is Diamer Bhasha Dam Project?

The dam is one of the five proposed dams to be built as part of the North Indus River Cascade. The Pakistani government approved the project in 2006.

On 17 January 2006, the President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, inaugurated the Diamer Bhasha Dam project.

He announced the construction of 5 multipurpose dams in Pakistan in the next 10 to 12 years.

Diamer Bhasha Dam is one of these, located on the Indus River in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

This project is vital for Pakistan’s water security. It will generate 4.5 GW of electricity.

Diamer Bhasha Dam is the world’s giant Roller Compact Concrete Dam.

Location of Diamer Bhasha Dam – The Major Reasons for Controversy

This is one of Pakistan’s mega projects under construction on the River Indus, about 315 kilometers down the flow of Tarbela Dam. The exact location is 165 kilometers down Gilgit and 40 kilometers down Chilas.

The dam project spans an area of 110 square kilometers. It extends 100 km upstream of the dam site up to Karakoram Highway.

The location, thus, of this dam is controversial. There are several reasons, so let’s see some of these.

1.     Pakistan & India Dispute

Pakistan and India’s dispute over the ownership of Kashmir is one of the reasons why this dam isn’t built yet. And India claims that Gilgit Baltistan is Pakistan’s occupied Kashmir.

However, its rightful heir is India, as per the partition map in 1947. When Pakistan started constructing the Diamer Bhasha Dam, India saw it as a threat to their water security. Because the dam is in a susceptible area, where the two countries disputed borders meet.

2.     Environmental Concerns

The dam is also getting constructed in a seismically active zone. So, there are environmental concerns that the dam might not be able to withstand an earthquake.

Also, its location poses a threat to landslides and floods, and when the dam collapses, it can lead to a huge disaster, as the dam is in a highly populated area.

Both Pakistan and India’s populations will receive the brunt of it, which is a significant concern.

3.     Local Opposition

The local people have also opposed the dam. They’re afraid that they will get displaced when the dam gets completed. And they’re also worried about the environmental impact of the dam.

For instance, the dam will cause the water level to rise in the area, which can lead to flooding and block fish migration.

The local people depend on fishing for their livelihood. So, they’re worried that the dam will impact their livelihoods negatively.

4.     International Opposition

The international community has also opposed the Diamer Bhasha Dam because it’s in a disputed area and has environmental concerns.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to finance the project. And international NGOs like Amnesty International have also raised concerns about the project.

5.     Heritage Issues

The dam is also located in an area with many important cultural heritage sites—for instance, the Buddhist stupas of Mansehra District.

Also, this area has rock carvings that date back to the 6th millennium BC. Some argue that these carvings are of great historical significance for Buddhists.

Others say their promotional value for tourism could be lost if they are submerged. As a result, there is a need to relocate these carvings to a safe location.

Despite the controversies, constructing this dam is a national pride for Pakistan.

What is The Water Storage and Electricity Production Capacity of Bhasha Dam?

The dam, when completed, would be around 270 meters high. It will have a reservoir to store about 7,500,000 acre-feet of water. The live storage capacity will be more than 6,400,000 acre-feet.

15% of the annual river flow will go to the dam. As for electricity, it will have the capacity to generate 4,500 MW of electricity.

There are three main components to the Diamer Bhasha Dam:

– The dam itself, which is a concrete gravity dam 272m high

– An underground power station on either side of the river, with an installed capacity of 2,250 MW each. 

– A reservoir to store about 7,500,000 acre feet (9.25×109 m3) of water.

What Is The Purpose Of Diamer Bhasha Dam?

The purpose of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is to provide water storage, irrigation, and generate electricity for Pakistan.

The dam will store vast amounts of water for future generations. It will also help to control flood damage caused by the River Indus.

The dam will also provide irrigation water for farmers during dry periods. In addition, the dam will generate 4500 MW of electricity.

It will be a renewable and cheap source of energy for Pakistan. Also, the tree count will increase due to the dam, reducing the impact of Global Climate Change.

Since Tarbela Dam is downstream from it, it will also help to extend its life by 35 years. So, the purpose of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is to flourish the country in many ways!

When Did The Diamer Bhasha Dam Start in Pakistan?

The Pakistani government approved the project in 2006, but unfortunately, the dam’s construction didn’t start till 2020.

The reason for the delay was due to the lack of funding. The Pakistani government didn’t have the necessary funds to start the dam construction.

But, in 2010, the Chinese government came to Pakistan’s aid and loaned them $7.6 billion to construct the dam.

On 13 May 2020, a contract worth Rs.442 billion were signed. This contract was between the Pakistani government, China Power, and Frontier Works Organization.

Thus, the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam started on 07.08.2020, and since then, there has been no looking back!

What Are The Main Attractions for Visitors at Bhasha Dam?

The dam and reservoir are the main attractions for visitors at Bhasha Dam. The dam is a concrete gravity dam and is one of the tallest dams in Pakistan.

With a length of 1,724mthe reservoir is also one of the largest in Pakistan. It has a storage capacity of 7,500,000 acre-feet, so the dam makes an excellent tourist spot.

A reservoir is an excellent place for fishing, boating, and swimming. It is also a popular spot for picnics, and in the coming years, with the dam’s completion, it will bring in even more tourism. So, if you’re ever in the area, visit the Bhasha Dam!

On Which River is Diamer Bhasha Dam Constructed?

Diamer Bhasha Dam is constructed on the River Indus. It is one of the five rivers that flow through Pakistan.

The dam is located in the Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is about 315 km down the flow from Tarbela Dam and 160 km down from Chilas.

And it is up to 82km above the flow from the Dasu area. The river Indus is the lifeline of Pakistan.

It is the longest river in Pakistan and flows through the entire country. The River Indus originates from the Tibetan Plateau. It flows through India and Pakistan.

It finally empties into the Arabian Sea. The River Indus is a vital source of water for Pakistan. Its uses are in irrigation, drinking, and industrial purposes.

The dam will help harness the River Indus water and will be a great asset for Pakistan.

Is Diamer Bhasha Dam Completed?

No, the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is still ongoing. It will be, as per expectation, completed by 2028. 

This timeline was set after the acceptance of the proposal in 2006. Unfortunately, the dam’s construction was delayed due to the lack of funding.

However, in 2022, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahbaz Sharif, visited the site and said that the dam’s construction would be completed by 2026.

His visit boosted the construction work, which is now going on at a fast pace. He shared that although it will be a miracle to have the dam completed by 2026.

The delay in the dam’s construction has caused many problems for Pakistan. As a result, the country is facing an acute water crisis.

The Diamer Bhasha Dam’s construction will help mitigate this water crisis.

Who Started Diamer Bhasha Dam in Pakistan?

WAPDA is the organization responsible for the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam.

It is a Pakistani federal agency responsible for developing water and power projects in Pakistan.

Some other dams constructed by WAPDA are Tarbela Dam, Mangla Dam, and Hub Dam.

In 2001, the Pakistani government identified Pakistan’s Water Vision 2025. This vision aimed to develop a water resources master plan for the next 25 years.

One of the critical components of this plan was the construction of the Diamer Basha Dam.

In 2006, the government of Pakistan approved the proposal for its construction.

How To Reach Bhasha Dam From Islamabad?

The best way to reach Bhasha Dam from Islamabad is by road. Getting to the dam from Islamabad takes around 6-7 hours.

The distance from Islamabad to Bhasha Dam is around 416 km. The route from Islamabad to Bhasha Dam is:

– Islamabad to Abbottabad (1 hour) 

– Abbottabad to Mansehra (1 hour) 

– Mansehra to Batagram (2 hours) 

– Batagram to Besham (1 hour) 

– Besham to Bhasha Dam (90 minutes) 

Alternatively, you can also take a flight from Islamabad to Gilgit airport. You can take a bus or a jeep from Gilgit to Bhasha Dam.

The journey by road is long, but it is more scenic. 

Diamer Bhasha Dam is a multipurpose dam under construction in Pakistan. It is expectedly to be completed by 2028.

Also, the dam will be a great asset to Pakistan’s economy. Starting in 2006, the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is still ongoing. The dam will provide water for irrigation, drinking, and industrial purposes. It will also generate hydroelectric power.

The construction of the dam is an essential thing for Pakistan. It will help the country to cope with lots of crises.