Diamer Bhasha Dam, Pakistan


The President of Pakistan during his national address on 17th January 2006 announced the decision to construct 5 multi-purpose water storages in the country over the next 10 -12 years. The Diamer Basha Dam Project, on the river Indus and closed to the Tarbela dam, will be one of these and will be undertaken in the first phase. It was announced as the worlds highest Roller Compacted Concrete Dam. The projects foundation stone was laid in 2011 with construction planned to be completed in 2016. The project is estimated to cost over US$8.5 billion with a reservoir covering 20,000 ha that will flood 100 kilometers of the Karakoram highway, and the villages and farms of over 35,000 people (1). It would provide 4500 MW of electricity to the national grid.

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Basic Data
NameDiamer Bhasha Dam, Pakistan
ProvinceNorthern Pakistan
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project is estimated to generate 4,500 MW.

MAIN DAM Maximum Height: 270 m Type Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) DIVERSION SYSTEM 2 No. Diversion tunnels 1 No. Diversion canal Upstream and Downstream Cofferdams MAIN SPILLWAY No. of gates 9 Size of gate 16.5 The 200 km2 reservoir would flood 100 km of the Karakoram highway, villages that house over 35,000 people would disappear, and up to 50,000 thousand-year old rock carvings would vanish.

Project Area (in hectares)20,000: reservoir
Level of Investment (in USD)8,500,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population300
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesLahmeyer from Germany - exploratory phase
AECOM from Canada - exploratory phase
Mott MacDonald from India - exploratory phase
China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG ) from China - exploratory phase
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Water & Power of Pakistan, Water and Power Development Authority [WAPDA]
International and Financial InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
The World Bank (WB) from United States of America
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersInternational Rivers, Pakistan Fisherfolks Forum, Local parties
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Violent targeting of activists
The death of two protestors was due to police opening fire during a street protest in 2010. The newpaper The News reported as follows: Dam Troubles The News (Pakistan) Saturday, February 20, 2010 www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=225218 Although only in its very early stages, the building of Bhasha dam appears fraught with difficulty, death and disruption. The police fired on protesters in Chilas who were angry at the way in which those affected by the building of the new - and essential - dam were being treated. They were demanding a share of the royalties generated by the dam, an increase in the compensation awarded to them and resolution of the border dispute between Gilgit-Baltistan and NWFP. Two protesters died in the firing, others were injured and the local populace displayed their displeasure by burning down the offices of the assistant commissioner, the superintendent of police and two police checkpoints. They also burned government vehicles and blocked Karakoram Highway in both directions for several hours ? and all this before work on the dam has got into top gear. Paramilitary forces and police reinforcements have been sent to stabilise the situation. (...)
Development of AlternativesSmall scale hydro projects and a redefinition of energy policies and strategy by the central government.

Providing electricity to small villages through community- or family- based devices for solar, wind and small hydro power.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite the protests, the project has been implemented and construction of the plant is ongoing.
Sources and Materials

Pomeranz, K. The Great Himalayan Watershed, New Left Review 2009


(1) International Rivers
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(2) Schneider, K. Fast track power generation
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(3) Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA)
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(4) Dawn. com Pakistan seeks greater US support for Diamer-Bhasha dam
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Official website of the project
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The Nation, Nationalists protest against Bhasha Dam across Sindh July 20, 2010
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The Tribune, Diamer-Bhasha Dam: Kohistan villagers continue blockade of KKH for third day
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Media Links

Rising Protests Against Diamer Basha Dam
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Meta Information
ContributorDaniela Del Bene
Last update08/04/2014
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