ISLAMABAD: As Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) completes 28 per cent work on the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project, the cost of which has gone up from Rs84 billion to Rs333 due to inordinate delay, Pakistan is pushing China to release the promised $500 million loan to bridge the shortfall of funds.
The cost of the project has increased after it was redesigned in the wake of the 2005 earthquake. Work on the project is progressing but the shortfall of funds and issues in land acquisition are still problems that need to be addressed to complete the project.
Wapda has also had to procure two Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) at the cost of Rs17 billion to overcome the delay of two and half years. “We will be able to reduce implementation time by two years by using TBMs that are expected to reach Karachi by January 25, 2012,” sources said.
Average completion level on the project is 28%. Some areas are progressing better, like the powerhouses, which are at 40% completion.
In the powerhouse, four turbines with a capacity of 242MW each will be set up. A separate plant of 45MW will also be set up at the diversion tunnel which was completed on October 15. A total of 60 kilometres of tunnels have to be completed including 35.6 kilometres of tunnels needed to push water to drive the turbines.
“As much as 17 kilometres have been completed,” sources said adding that work was underway on the coffer dam that is expected to be completed by February next year.
Sources said that a consortium of six banks including Exim Bank of China is providing financing for the project. “We are pushing Exim Bank of China to extend a $500 million loan to bridge the shortfall of funds,” sources said adding that other banks in the consortium were also being asked to extend additional $700 to $800 million loans.
The project cost has escalated on different accounts including Rs38 billion due as interest on loan, Rs45 billion on account of depreciation of rupee against dollar, from Rs45 to Rs86. Further cost increases were because of rate of land acquisition and procurement of two TBMs that cost Rs17 billion.
The government is to procure total 3,900 kanals of land out of which about 68 kanals is still outstanding, including the crucial portion of about 18 kanals for which payment of Rs1.2 billion has already been made to the AJK government.
“Despite payment, local people are reluctant to hand over land which may further delay the completion of the project,” sources added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2011.