Drive for water reservoirs gets impetus after PM Imran Khan’s appeal

Islamabad: The campaign launched by Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar in July, has gained further impetus after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s television address to the nation in which he made an impassioned appeal to generously donate money for dams and participate in ‘Jehad’ for water.

Khan appealed to Pakistanis, particularly those overseas, to contribute generously in the Chief Justice & Prime Minister’s joint account.

“I am joining Prime Minister’s account with the Chief Justice’s and appeal to each overseas Pakistani to at least contribute $1,000 in the fund,” Imran said.

The appeal has led to a debate on whether such a venture is possible with the help of donations. While the people at large support Imran’s initiative, leaders of various political parties and economic experts are skeptical.

According to them, Pakistan requires over $14 billion for the construction of Diamer Basha Dam which cannot be constructed through donations alone. Construction of the water reservoir is possible through a consortium of multilateral and bilateral creditors established to manage the financing, while installation of power generation should be done in the second phase through investment from potential domestic and international investors by competitive bidding process and it should be built on the Built-Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis.

Former Minister for Planning & Development Ahsan Iqbal is of the view that donations and foreign remittances would be helpful but the government also needed international financing and allocation of a large amount in Public Sector Development Programme for new dams.

“Pakistan’s first National Water Policy was approved by PML-N government through Council of Common Interest in April, 2018 after extensive consultations with provinces and it is a comprehensive framework to address Pakistan’s water challenge with concrete steps,” he said.

Noted economist Dr Kaiser Bengali told Gulf News that Imran Khan’s vision of raising funds for construction of dams was a far cry and an almost impossible task. “It would be a miracle if the government managed to get enough donations required for construction of dams,” he said. “We not only need massive donations but we need to cut non-development expenditures and if the government by some means manages 50 per cent of resources, the rest can be assured by foreign companies, investors etc even machinery for the dam can be leased,” said Dr Bengali.

A senior journalist who has been covering economy-related issues for three decades, M Ziauddin, said the government’s plan to raise funds is a long journey. “There is possibility that Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar might have to visit Europe, USA and Middle East and participate in road shows to raise funds. Even then there is no surety that funds for such a huge mega project could be made available,” said Ziauddin.

In his view if the government raised a public limited company with US$1000 per share for the overseas and Rs125,000 for nationals and that share is redeemable after a period of 30 years then public can purchase those shares and be owner of the dam. “In my view this is something the government of course after consultation with its economic experts,” said M Ziauddin.

Out of 9 million Pakistanis living abroad, around 4 million alone live in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and according to analysts they are not in a financial state to raise US$1,000 each for dam funds.

A Canadian national of Pakistan origin Kamran Qureshi said: “Pakistan is our motherland and we have to return to our mother.”

Not only water reservoirs are the need of the hour, proper management of water is also severely required, said he. “I am sure Supreme Court’s initiative will meet success and now Prime Minister has also taken a step in this direction by further enhancing its significance,” said Kamran.

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