Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the wrong decisions taken by previous governments led to environmental deterioration and decline in industrial progress over the years.
His remarks came as he addressed a gathering in the Gilgit-Baltistan city of Chillas, where he arrived to kick off mega construction work on the Diamer-Bhasha dam.
He was accompanied by CPEC Authority Chairman Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa.
“When our government took over, we had a deficit of over Rs20 billion due to the decisions of the past governments,” he told attendees, adding that the less developed areas of the country cannot be ignored any further.
He said that the country’s leaders in the 90s made a mistake deciding to produce electricity from oil, adding that only those nations progress that take difficult decisions.
About the Diamer-Bhasha dam, PM Imran said that it was a historic decision to construct the project that will be the “third biggest dam in Pakistan” after the Tarbela and Mangla dams.
“The site is naturally well-suited for building the dam because it has natural rocks. It took us almost 40 years to implement our decision.
“(You) can figure out what a huge mistake we have made by not thinking about constructing dams for the storage of water.”
Speaking about the benefits of the project, the premier said that it will be an environmentally friendly project and will lead to more job opportunities.
The premier said the dam will provide the facility to store 6.4 million acre-feet of water and 4,500-megawatt, environment-friendly electricity will be produced.
Over 16,000 people will be employed after construction begins on this dam, said PM Imran, adding that the project would be completed by 2028.
The premier said that the dam will likely reduce the chances of flooding in the country.
He added that a cadet college being constructed in the area will provide a great opportunity to the people of Chilas and Gilgit Baltistan.
The prime minister also spoke about the reopening of tourism in the northern areas with strict safety measures in place.
Climate change and tree plantation
The prime minister said that he has been stressing on the issue of climate change for a while, adding that the country is planting more and more trees that will help the environment in the long-run.
“Pakistan is among the ten top countries that stand threatened due to climatic changes,” he said.
He said that the current government intends to plant around 10 billion trees across the country to strengthen the environment and reverse the impact of climate change.
The prime minister said that the project will open opportunities for the people of Chillas while fortifying the tourism sector.
Security of water needs
Information minister Shibli Faraz said the development of every sector, including water and power — as well as the prosperity of people — are the foremost priorities of the prime minister.
In a tweet, he said the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam will guarantee that the country’s water needs are secure.
Faraz said the project will prove to be a milestone in the smooth functioning of economic activities and will generate employment opportunities. He said the dam will irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres.
Visit to Diamer-Bhasha dam
Earlier in the day, Lt Gen Bajwa, who is also the premier’s aide on information, shared the news of the prime minister’s arrival to oversee the Diamer-Bhasha dam construction on Twitter, saying that the premier will be briefed regarding the progress of the project and its impact.
“Historic milestone as PM kicks off mega construction work at Diamer Bhasha Dam today. 6.4 MAF water reservoir, will add 1.2 million acres for agriculture, 4,500 MW cheaper, greener hydel power, steel/cement/construction boost, 16000 jobs,” he wrote.