Shehbaz Sharif, the newly installed prime minister of Pakistan, has ordered the completion of the $2.8bn Diamer Bhasha Dam in Kashmir three years earlier than scheduled.
An element of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the dam is being built by a joint venture between China Power and the Frontier Works Organisation, an engineering arm of Pakistan’s army.
When work began in 2020, it was expected to finish in 2028. Sharif now wants this to happen in 2026.
He made the call during a speech delivered to the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) at the site of the project on Sunday, newspaper Dawn reports.
He said the electricity and irrigation produced by the dam would help to make Pakistan “prosperous and progressive”.
Claiming to understand the difficult terrain of the area and Pakistan’s difficulties in raising funds for construction, he added: “I am sure that all of you are going to work as a team and make efforts for the biggest energy project and complete it as early as possible.”
He also urged international investors to come forward and invest in the project.
The project is to build a roller-compacted gravity dam with a barrier some 272m high, making it the tallest of its type in the world.
The reservoir will contain 10 cubic kilometres of River Indus water, and its two powerhouses are expected to generate 4.5GW of electricity, equivalent to 12% of Pakistan’s total installed capacity.
The dam is being built in mountainous terrain between Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer district in Gilgit Baltistan.
According to Dawn, engineers who have completed hydropower projects in the region suggested that it was more likely that the project would take longer than nine years to complete, rather than fewer.
However, the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry welcomed the expedited schedule.
Its president Mian Nauman Kabir said on Monday that the project would serve as a “lifeline” for the country by improving its energy mix, cutting its huge oil import bill and bringing down the cost of doing business.