Diamer-Bhasha dam project approved by CCI18 July 2010
ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved on Sunday the Diamer-Bhasha dam project and set up a committee to review the role and functions of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra). At its first meeting held after gaining more powers under the 18th Amendment, the council approved the construction of the dam through a unanimously adopted resolution. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani presided over the meeting. Senator Raza Rabbani briefed the members, including the four provincial chief ministers, on the work done by the commission for implementation of the amendment. According to a handout, the special sub-committee on Nepra comprises Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Communications Arbab Alamgir Khan, Minister for Livestock and Dairy Development Humayun Aziz Kurd and Senator Rabbani. The four chief ministers have been asked to appoint their representatives on the committee. Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Senator Rabbani said the sub-committee had been constituted after certain quarters, particularly the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, questioned the constitutional role of Nepra. It will review Nepra's powers in the light of Article 157 of the Constitution relating to the setting up of power projects in provinces. Nepra was formed through an act of parliament in December 1997 for regulating the provision of electricity service and determining the tariff after holding quarterly public hearings. However, it became controversial when former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf empowered it through an ordinance 'to review and revise power tariff on a monthly basis on account of any variation in fuel charges'. 'The committee will see whether it is constitutionally empowered to do so,' Mr Rabbani said, adding that its report would be submitted to the CCI within a month. He said that the provinces could earlier raise only water-related issues at the CCI, but now the scope of the council had been broadened and it could also take up other matters. Under Article 157, he said, provinces or the federal government could also move the CCI for resolving a dispute regarding hydel or thermal power installations or electricity generation. Senator Rabbani said the CCI was now required to meet at least once in 90 days.Earlier, it had held only 11 meetings over more than 30 years. Earlier, he said, the prime minister had the power to nominate any person to head the CCI, but now it was binding upon him to preside over the council's meetings. He said council was also required to submit an annual report to both the houses of parliament. He said the CCI had to be constituted within 30 days of the prime minister taking oath of office. Previously, this period was not fixed. In response to a question, he said the dam project had already been launched, but its formal approval by the CCI would help seek foreign investment because the international community would get a clear message that it was a non-controversial plan. The World Bank is reported to have asked the government to get approval of the project from parliament as a pre-condition for receiving $11.34 billion. However, according to sources, the government found it more convenient to get an approval from the CCI. According to the handout, the members were informed that the dam, to be completed in 2019, would have a storage capacity of 6.4 million acre-feet of water and would produce 4,500 megawatts of electricity. The dam is likely to pay back its cost within eight years after its completion. The prime minister asked the ministry of water and power to prepare a plan for development of infrastructure to support early completion of the Thar coal project. The council called for resubmission of a summary seeking provinces' support for implementation of intellectual property rights after consulting the provincial governments. It decided to receive detailed briefings at its next meeting on the performance of the railways and a plan to hold a census. The prime minister said the CCI needed to play a more effective and visible role to resolve issues between the federal and provincial governments. He said the 18th Amendment reflected the wishes of the people and gave greater autonomy to the provinces in managing their resources and ensuring delivery of service according to their priorities. He said the implementation commission was taking steps to ensure that matters which needed to be brought before the CCI were not taken to any other forum. Before the CCI meeting, the four chief ministers called on Mr Gilani.