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Wednesday, 24 March 1965

Senator SCOTT - Senator Dittmer said that the Government's inability to assess the cost of the scheme in its initial stages necessitated coming back for further finance from the Australian taxpayers in order to meet its commitments. The facts of the situation are that the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development planned this scheme as far back as seven or eight years before 1957. Having planned the scheme it estimated the cost. Originally, it had to get the consent not only of the Prime Minister of India, the late Mr. Nehru, but also that of the President of Pakistan, General Ayub Khan. That permission was granted in 1959, I think, and an agreement was drawn up in relation to the Indus Basin Development Fund.

Under this agreement several countries of the world agreed to give certain amounts of money. The amounts are set down on a formula I have here. Australia was to contribute £6.965 million, Canada 22,100,000 Canadian dollars, Germany 126 million deutsche, marks, New Zealand £1 million, the United Kingdom £20.860 million and the United States of America 177 million dollars. That was agreed to by the countries concerned. The Bank agreed to find from its sources an additional 90 million dollars. That was the start of the scheme - a plan by the Bank, costed by the Bank, proposed by the Bank to Pakistan and India, agreed to by the leaders of those two countries and then placed before certain countries of the world, which I have just mentioned, for participation by way of granting funds for the construction of these works. Those countries having agreed to the plan, as I have said, the Bank agreed to come forward with additional assistance in the sum of 90 million dollars so that it could be initiated. The agreement was signed in 1960. Four years later the Bank has found that, owing to increased costs or other circumstances it requires increased amounts from the donor countries. It has asked for an additional sum of £140 million, of which our share is to be £4.669 million. This will bring the total Australian contribution to approximately £11,635,000. Of that amount, £3,270,000 has been paid, and the remainder will be called up by instalments between now and 1970. It will be noted that our commitment over a period of 10 years will be a little over £1 million a year.

Senator Dittmercondemned the Government for not giving him more information, but in spite of that condemnation he said that the Opposition did not intend to oppose the measure. I congratulate the honorable senator and his colleagues upon adopting that attitude, because this measure is another instance of the way in which partly developed countries like Australia are contributing sums of money for developmental purposes to improve the standard of living in Pakistan and India.

I believe that the Indus River basin is the largest in the world and that it provides the greatest potential for irrigation that is provided by any river system in the world. The Indus River, which has six tributaries and has its source in the Himalayas, has an irrigation potential of almost 100 million acres. That is larger than the total area of Italy and is estimated to be one and a half times the size of the United Kingdom.

Senator Benn - Will any hydro-electric power stations be provided?

Senator SCOTT - Provision is made for approximately 300 kilowatts of electricity to be generated at one of the dams that are to be constructed. The development of this scheme will permit the growing of extra quantities of rice, sugar, sorghum and other hard grain crops including linseed, for the feeding of the people. I understand that the population of the basin is approximately 60 million people. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development estimates that the average annual discharge of the Indus system of rivers is twice that of the Nile River, three times that of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and ten times that of the Colorado River in America. The Indus system is fed by the melting of the snows of the .Himalayas. These rivers often flood very heavily in the summer months, but in the winter months they are red'uced to a trickle and sometimes almost dry up.

Senator Benn - How long will be the longest tunnel? Will it be seven miles?

Senator SCOTT - I do not know. Because these rivers more or less dry up in the winter months, it has become necessary to construct dams to hold excess quantities of water so they can be used for irrigation in those months. Being a partly developed nation, Australia ought to be proud of being able to help to provide facilities for increased agricultural production for the people -of the Indus Basin, whose income per head of the population is among the lowest in the world. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

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