Diamer-Bhasha Dam in Pakistan: Report from a Field Trip

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This report was prepared by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Pakistan, for International Rivers. 

Executive Summary


The planned 4,500MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam on the Indus in Pakistan is, at US$ 12.6 billion, one of the largest and most costly planned dams in the world. In August 2008, a fact-finding team visited the proposed site of the dam for one week to collect information and to document the public perception of the project. The team was composed of four Pakistani water experts: Mustafa Talpur, Iftikhar Hussain, Mohsin Babbar and Aimal Khan.

The Pakistani Water and Power Development Authority, WAPDA, is planning to start construction of the dam in 2010. The hydropower project would have an installed capacity of 4,500MW and a dam wall of 270 meters. Its 200 km2 reservoir would flood around 100 km of the Karakoram highway, villages that house over 28,000 people and thousands of 50,000 year old rock carvings. 

Access to Information

Transparency levels in Pakistan are generally poor and it is very difficult to get access to information about any development project, program or policy. The fact finding team learned that the same was true for the Diamer-Bhasha dam. In numerous meetings of the fact finding team with project-affected people, officials of the district administration and the execution agency, the team learned that planners, designers and the execution agency had never consulted stakeholders of the project. Some representatives of the people who will be displaced by the project told the fact-finding team that the only visits they had received in connection with the project were from private consultants who had come to assess the size and value of the land. Contrary to the relevant laws, no public hearing was organized after conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment. 

Recommendations of the Fact Finding Team

In light of these and other findings of the report, the fact finding team recommends that the affected people are given access to project-related information in their language and in regular meetings, where they should also be given the right to provide input into the decision-making processes. Especially the concerns of the affected people related to compensation and resettlement need to be listen to and acted upon by the project authorities.