CHATTAR KALAS: Terming it a historic moment in the provision of sustainable energy supply, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday inaugurated the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The run-of-the-river power scheme is designed to divert water from the Neelum River to the power station on the Jhelum River and will produce 969MW of electricity.
The prime minister said that the construction for the project was started in 2008 but, due to poor planning and a lack of funds, it continued to remain a major challenge. The PM added that in 2013 when the government was formed, the Neelum-Jhelum dam had only seen a progress of 10-12 per cent and several people advised the government to abandon the project altogether.
The PM, however, said that due to the government’s dedication and the vision of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the project has finally been completed. “I am a witness to the scepticism and doubts about the project. Eleven out of the 12 participants believed that the dam would not be completed, but the former prime minister remained firm.” Commenting on the exorbitant amount of $5 billion spent on the project — an amount three times higher than the original estimate — the PM said that the dam had to be redesigned after the 2005 earthquake.
The Chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain, said the Neelum-Jhelum project would generate five5 billion units annually to earn Rs 50 billion. He said that production cost was Rs 2.5 per unit but its tariff would be Rs 9-10 per unit to finance the loans taken from financial institutions. Mr Hussain added that the Exim Bank of China had given a $1 billion loan for the project.
He further added that government had collected Rs 68 billion from power consumers through the Neelum-Jhelum surcharge, which would be over by end of the year. He urged the government to end the PC-1 and PC-2, to enhance the capacity of institutions and end political interventions in national institutions and build capacity of local companies.
The prime minister said that the PML-N government had added a total of 10,400 MW to the national grid. He contended that previous governments had not added more than 2000 MW in all the long years they had been in power. Mr Abbasi pointed out that the government had also managed to address the serious gaps in supply and demand for energy in the country.
Mr Abbasi said the government had operationalised the Nandipur power plant, a thermal power plant designed to generate 525 MW of electricity. The prime minister added that the government had continued its development projects on motorways, and had also worked on diversifying the energy supply base to include hydel, coal, gas and wind-run power plants. He said two coal-based power plants were already operational and a third would be operational soon.
The PM said that the government would have to build two more dams to counter the water shortages the country faces.
Talking about the situation in India-held Kashmir, the PM said that Pakistan will continue all political, economic and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris. He said he had taken up the issue with the UN Secretary-General. Mr Abbasi said that the Kashmir issue was a serious issue of human rights violations and expressed hope that the international community would play its role to end the mass killings.
Speaking of the Neelum-Jhelum dam, Prime Minister AJK Raja Farooq Haider said that Nawaz Sharif deserved all praise for completing the project. Mr Haider demanded that 250 MW electricity be allocated to AJK so that load shedding could be reduced. He further demanded to give Rs 1.10 per unit net hydel profit at par with KPK and Punjab. He also demanded to remove hurdles in issuing NOC to foreign investors. Mr Haider finally requested the PM Abbasi to give the 614 cusecs water allocated to AJK.