PM orders inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum fault

Shehbaz wants WAPDA to fix responsibility

APP May 16, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses at Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Power Project in Muzaffarabad on May 16, 2024. PHOTO: PID


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered an inquiry into the recent technical fault that caused the suspension of power generation at the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP).

During his day-long visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), he directed officials at the project site to expedite the investigation and determine the root causes of the issue.

The decision to launch the inquiry came after the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) announced a complete shutdown of the 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project for inspection purposes on May 3.

This shutdown followed the detection of a major operational issue a month prior, which resulted in significant pressure fluctuations in the project’s headrace tunnel, as stated by Wapda.

The Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project had previously faced challenges, with a closure in July 2022 due to major cracks discovered in its 3.5km tailrace tunnel (TRT). Extensive repairs were carried out over the following 13 months, and power generation resumed in August-September 2023. The project achieved its maximum 969MW capacity on March 29, as confirmed by Wapda.

Within a week, on April 3, the 48km-long headrace tunnel (HRT) dropped pressure, and power generation fell to about 400MW “soon after the project was restored to full capacity by international contractors because of debris or cracks in HRT”.

The project authorities and contractors, in consultation with the Wapda management, had tried in-house emergency measures to restore the project but the fault was bigger than anticipated, although generation had increased since.

The earlier repairs of 3.5km TRT cost the nation about Rs6bn, in addition to about Rs37 billion in energy loss during repairs, maintenance, and testing over the following 20 months. Wapda has filed about Rs43 billion insurance claims for the losses and is reported to have already held a series of high-level meetings on the subject.

The prime minister, while speaking on the occasion, expressed his displeasure that the findings of the inquiry into the recent fault were still awaited and directed the officials concerned to submit the report within days and restore the power generation after repair work as early as possible.

He said it was unfortunate that $5 billion had been spent on the project despite an initial estimate of $40 million, but it was still facing technical issues.

“I am very much clear. I need a thorough probe whether lapses were in the design or in the construction, and the responsibility should be fixed. No more delay will be acceptable,” he added.

The prime minister said it was a project of national significance in the power sector after Tarbela and Mangla dams with a huge cost and must remain functional for decades.

He directed that the inquiry should be carried out by third-party experts and not by the designer or contractor of the project. He also directed Wapda and the NJHP Company to complete the repair work of the tunnel at the earliest and resume generation.AJK CabinetPrime Minister Shehbaz Sharif emphasised the interconnectedness of progress between Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) during his address at a special cabinet meeting held in AJK.

He underscored the importance of collaborative efforts between his government and the AJK leadership to address mutual concerns and work towards a lasting resolution for the issues facing the Kashmiri people.
In response to recent events, Prime Minister Shehbaz condemned acts of violence and expressed heartfelt condolences for those affected.

Shehbaz acknowledged the recent movement led by the people of AJK for their rights, noting that while genuine demands were raised, some troublemakers attempted to instigate riots and violence.

He expressed condolences for the loss of life, including that of a police official and civilians, during the unrest. In response, he announced government support for the affected families under the Shuhada Package.
Regarding financial support, Prime Minister Shehbaz disclosed that Rs23 billion allocated by his government had been disbursed to the AJK administration.

He assured that following the conclusion of the IMF team's visit, federal officials responsible for power would engage in consultations with AJK authorities. The aim of these discussions is to devise permanent solutions to address grievances and prevent future incidents of unrest.

He announced the government's commitment to supporting affected families under the Shuhada Package, a gesture aimed at providing solace and assistance during challenging times.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Shehbaz instructed the formation of a committee to address pressing issues such as water charges and the Neelum Jhelum project, emphasizing the need for comprehensive discussions and proactive solutions.

Highlighting the swift disbursement of funds, Prime Minister Shehbaz emphasized the government's commitment to immediate action in addressing the region's needs. He stressed the importance of expeditious responses to ensure timely relief and support for the people of AJK.

Additionally, Prime Minister Shehbaz urged for constructive engagement with relevant ministries to devise sustainable solutions that address the long-term development and stability of the region.

Reaffirming Pakistan's unwavering support for the Kashmiri cause, Prime Minister Shehbaz cited recent international efforts aimed at advocating for the rights and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.


Read more: PM Shehbaz visits AJK, meets leadership after protests rock region

He specifically highlighted the advocacy efforts of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar at the recent OIC Summit, where the Kashmir issue was prominently addressed.

Prime Minister Shehbaz also condemned the ongoing human rights violations and atrocities perpetrated by India in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), pledging continued moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmir cause.

In his remarks, AJK Prime Minister Chaudhary Anwaar ul Haq welcomed Prime Minister Shehbaz's visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, noting its significance as a demonstration of Pakistan's enduring commitment to the region's development and welfare.

He commended the swift implementation of directives, citing the recent disbursement of funds totaling Rs23 billion as evidence of the government's proactive approach to addressing AJK's needs.

Prime Minister Chaudhary Anwaar ul Haq underscored the importance of Pakistan's support in facilitating the progress and prosperity of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, emphasizing the value of cooperation between the federal and AJK governments in achieving common goals. APP


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