ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday kicked off construction work at the Diamer-Bhasha dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, notwithstanding India's objection to the China-backed mega project.
Addressing a public gathering in Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khan said the Diamer-Bhasha will be Pakistan's third largest dam after Tarbela and Mangla dams.
The project will generate 4,500MW electricity and provide at least 16,000 jobs.
It is expected to be completed by 2028.
The Pakistan government in May signed a whopping Rs 442 billion contract with a joint venture of a Chinese state-run firm and a commercial arm of Pakistan's powerful military for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.
Chinese state-run firm China Power holds 70% and the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), a commercial arm of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, 30% share in the consortium that will build the dam.
In May, India took strong note of Pakistan awarding the contract to build the dam, saying carrying out of such projects in territories under Pakistan's illegal occupation was not proper.
"Our position is consistent and clear that entire territory of the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are and will continue to be integral and inalienable part of India," MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
"We have consistently conveyed our protests and shared concerns with both Pakistan and China on all such projects in the Indian territories under Pakistan's illegal occupation," he said.
Pakistan's Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved the project for construction in 2010, but it suffered delays because of international lending agencies which remained associated with the project but later backtracked because of opposition from India as major part of the dam is located in Gilgit-Baltistan.
In his address, Khan lamented that building of this dam was delayed while the previous governments started building thermal power stations.
"The decision to build this dam was taken 50 years ago. There can be no better site for constructing a dam, it is a natural dam. Forty, 50 years ago this was decided, and work on the project has begun today," he said.
He announced plans to build more dams on rivers to get cheap energy and decrease the pressure on foreign exchange to buy foreign fuel.
The completion of the dam would increase Pakistan's storage capacity from 30 to 48 days and make power generation facilities an attractive future investment by the private sector to add 4,500MW of additional electricity to the national grid, according to a report in Dawn newspaper in May.
Prime minister Khan said that hydropower projects would also be helpful to reduce global warming.
He was accompanied by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hamid besides Minister for Water Faisal Vawda and other senior officials.