Spotlight: With Arshad Jami
In the first of our occasional Spotlight series, we profile an Impact Resolutions team member to discuss their professional interests as well as what makes them tick.
We were recently lucky enough to visit beautiful Pakistan, so what better person to begin the series than our very own in-country Human Environment Specialist, Arshad Jami.
Tell me about your experience working in Pakistan.
I’m the first Pakistani with extensive resettlement experience on six mega hydropower dam projects. This infrastructure is vital to the national interest as the country suffers from regular energy shortages. These projects are (in order of size) Tarbela, Dasu, Pattan, Thakot, Kohala and Karot. Tarbela is the world’s largest earth- and rock-filled dam. Three of these projects were World Bank funded.
I have experience in all stages of development, including feasibility studies, detail design, resettlement action plans, migration management plans, gender empowerment, livelihood restoration, consultation and participation, labour issues.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered on these projects?
Resettlement was always the main sticking point. Project affected households are often very reluctant to leave their houses. They had a strong attachment to their homes and the land of their forefathers. The key to success was continued engagement: after several sensitive community consultations we were usually able to come to an agreement.
How did you persuade the affected households to relocate?
Communities agreed the project was vital to the national interest. Moreover, they were well and fairly compensated. We also offered skills training, and micro-financing as well as allocating funds for business development, such as new business construction or property investment—none of which existed before the project.
How were women empowered as a result of the projects?
Before construction, the concept of female empowerment was usually non-existent. After consultation with community elders we were able to offer opportunities such as training for sewing, embroidery, handicrafts etc. Some women even went on to start their own business.
Better education for women has also been a major objective. We’ve witnessed a significant uptick in literacy rates.
What are the main challenges and opportunities currently facing the country?
Pakistan faces significant challenges. The population is growing at around 2% per annum. A corresponding lack of hydropower means insufficient electricity. This places a huge burden on already overstretched resources. Education and literacy are also ongoing concerns.
Pakistan is currently being handicapped by high energy prices. We must construct more dams to meet our growing energy needs. This will result in increased power generation with lower prices being passed on to the consumer. In addition to helping individual households, reduced energy tariffs will assist industry by helping to reduce production costs—meaning that more funds can be ploughed back into the business. This is in turn will help the country to grow.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be a game changer. It’s a massive $62 billion project intended to modernize Pakistani infrastructure and strengthen our economy by construction of updated transportation networks, energy projects and special economic zones.
How can you ensure that development will be sustainable?
Water is key! Despite having large reserves Pakistan faces a major water shortage with this precious resource constantly pouring into the oceans. Increased dam construction will ensure this valuable commodity is properly stored.
Tourism is another area with high growth potential. Our country has many beautiful natural as well as cultural resources. We need to change people’s perceptions because, despite what you may hear in the media, apart from a few isolated areas Pakistan is a very safe country to visit.
What do you like most about your job?
I’ve been lucky to visit so many beautiful areas of this diverse country. The northern provinces are my favourites.