File photo of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Photograph:( Reuters )
Because the project is in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. In 2018 -- surprisingly, Pakistan's top judge ordered a crowd-funding campaign to kickstart the project.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that his government will build the biggest dam in the country's history.
The Pakistan PM was talking about the controversial Diamer-Bhasha dam. PM Imran Khan's visit to the site officially signalled the start of construction.
The dam will be built on the Indus River in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is in Pakistan occupied Kashmir(PoK). Upon completion in 2028, it will be the world's highest roller compacted concrete dam. It will provide cheap electricity, irrigate farmland and create jobs - at least that's the promise.
The project has seen four inaugurations by four prime ministers in four decades. Finally, construction has begun but it would not have been possible without China's help.
The project faces high costs, territorial dispute with India and local protests. The total cost of the project is pegged at $14 billion. For fifty years, Pakistan has been trying to secure funds.
Since 1980, it has gone to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Western allies but they all refused because the project is in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
In 2018, surprisingly, Pakistan's top judge ordered a crowd-funding campaign to kickstart the project but the collection fell short of the target. With no options left, Pakistan finally turned to China. The dam was made part of the China-Pakistan economic corridor(CPEC).
Now, Imran Khan is showcasing it as a matter of national pride. The fact is that it will be a Chinese dam. With a 70 per cent stake, China is the major shareholder.
India has protested asserting that the project is in Indian territory under Pakistan's illegal occupation. Also protesting are the locals in Gilgit-Baltistan. The dam is likely to submerge 32 villages in Diamer district alone.
Nearly 50,000 people will be displaced. Those who have already lost their land are not being given compensation. They also stand to lose their cultural heritage. Buddhist sculptures and inscriptions in 50 villages will go underwater.
The Diamer-Bhasha dam is not the only controversial project in the region. Azad Pattan and Kohala hydroelectric projects are facing similar issues with both dams being built in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Both face stern opposition from the locals and from India and both are being funded by the Chinese. Imran Khan's showpiece dam is more of a liability than an asset. The discontent and debt are Pakistan's fate and the dam is made by China.