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Floods Delay U.S., China-Built Dam in Power-Starved Pakistan’s Northwest – Bloomberg

Pakistan’s Gomal Zam dam, needed by the government to ease power and water shortages, will be completed six months late because of delayed funding and damage from recent floods, its project manager said.

The barrage, being built by China’s state-owned Sinohydro Corp., “will begin operating in April 2011” instead of this month, said Colonel Muhammad Zaheer, who oversees the work for the army’s Frontier Works Organization. “The construction is 92 percent complete,” Zaheer said in an interview Sept. 28 at the dam site.

The dam, in the impoverished district of South Waziristan, is a key part of Pakistan’s economic development plan to undercut the Taliban guerrilla movement. Militants had their main base in the district until the army seized it last year, and 1,500 troops protect the construction site, Zaheer said.

The first of two planned turbines will add 17.4 megawatts of electricity to the national power grid, against Pakistan’s supply shortfalls this year of 5,000 megawatts or more.

Canals built by Istanbul-based Tekser Construction will irrigate 66,000 hectares (163,000 acres) of farmland in South Waziristan and adjoining districts, Zaheer said.

Work on the dam began from 2002 until 2004, when it halted after Taliban fighters kidnapped two Chinese engineers, one of whom was killed in a Pakistani army rescue operation. The original Chinese contractors withdrew from the project, and the army’s construction branch resumed work in 2007, subcontracting to Sinohydro and Tekser.

Worst Floods

This year’s monsoon floods, Pakistan’s worst ever, submerged the site’s rock-crushing plant and caused mudslides that buried access roads, causing $800 million rupees ($9.3 million) in damage, Zaheer said. He declined to provide details on the delays in construction funding.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said by e-mail in July that President Barack Obama’s administration would step in to pay $108 million of the $136 million projected cost for the dam and irrigation project. The aid is part of U.S. efforts to improve power supplies and agriculture as a way of stabilizing a country it sees as crucial to its fight against Islamic militant groups in South and Central Asia.

Sinohydro, which helped build China’s Three Gorges Dam, is also working on the Khan Khawar Dam in Shangla, a northwestern valley that has suffered attacks by the Taliban.

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