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Pakistan: Tarbela dam

The Tarbela Dam in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province was constructed in 1976 and involved the resettlement of more than 80,000 people.

Many were moved to a series of townships surrounding the Tarbela reservoir, some moved into higher valleys, while others were resettled in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

Our partner in Pakistan, the SUNGI Development Foundation, worked with the community-based organisation SMT to collect and communicate testimonies from those affected by the resettlement.

Narrators describe the differences between their life in the villages and the more urban environments to which they were moved, where many of their old skills and occupations were redundant. As a result, unemployment is a huge problem, and drug addiction among the younger generation, particularly men, has become a major concern.

The publication of a booklet of the interviews was delayed when SUNGI and SMT had to focus on the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake, but in early 2007 they produced The submerged speak.

Extracts from the testimonies

“The government says they will produce electricity, the country will develop. But we have to pay for electricity, we have not been developed. We got no benefit.”
Mohammed (male), 62 years old

“We never thought that we would leave that place… Our chickens went…Animals were lost…The people of neighbouring villages stole many of our things… At that time everyone became selfish…”
Chan (female), 70 years old

“There is a major change [now]. Everyone is worried and they do not have time to interact with each other. The gatherings have finished… No one knows who we are. We have been ousted from our houses. No one respects us. We have lost our culture as well.”
Ilm (male), 60 years old

“People remain jobless even if they are educated. All the boys are sitting here and there as they do not have anything to do. Due to unemployment people have started using drugs and many are addicted… Many others are involved in gambling. They think they will make some money through gambling, but they lose everything… Unemployment is a big curse here.”
Shahab (female), 50 years old

“People have become more civilised after coming here… they have developed better understanding and wisdom… Now a woman is given her rights.”
Gul Bibi (female), 37 years old

See also



Pakistan: Tarbela dam is produced as part of the Displaced for development oral testimony project.


India: Coalmining in Jharkhand

Pakistan: Tarbela dam

Lesotho: Highlands water project

Kenya: Displaced pastoralists

Zambia and Zimbabwe: Kariba dam

Botswana and Namibia: The San


The submerged speak