In May, CPEC Chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa announced that Pakistan had begun constructing the Diamer Bhasha dam to put an end to the country’s water woes. However, top environmentalists in Gilgit-Baltistan believe that the dam’s construction has more cons than pros.
Speaking to The Third Pole, Gilgit-Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency Director Shehzad Shigri said the creation of the reservoir will have a devastating impact on the climate in the region.
“Around 0.1 billion cubic metres of water will evaporate every year from the reservoir [if the dam is constructed]. This may change the climate and weather patterns in the region,” Shigri said.
He believes the dam will divide communities on both sides of the Indus River and displace 50,000 residents.
The government aims to build the dam near the Nanga Parbat peak. It will stand 272 metres above the Indus River, being one of the highest dams in the world, if made.
Former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar was one of the prominent personalities to have shed the light on creation of the dam. He and PM Imran Khan found it the sole solution to the country’s water scarcity issue.
But some climate experts think it’s not worth it. Aisha Khan, the chief executive of the Civil Society Collation for Climate Change, is one of them.
She feels that rising temperatures will accelerate the melting of Himalayan glaciers and a significant amount of water will be drained in the next 30 years.
The expert said the solution doesn’t lie in new dams, but in improved water management and cropping patterns.
Similarly, environmentalist Simi Kamal thinks that the time for building new dams has passed. She’s the chairperson of the Hisaar Foundation that builds consensus on water policy.
“We have to plug the leakages and learn to live with climate change,” Kamal said.“I don’t think this is the right time to build a new dam and that too in a seismically active zone when Pakistan has no money.”