MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf formally inaugurated two tunnel-boring machines on Monday following their installation at the site of the 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The project is being completed with assistance from Chinese and other international companies.
With deployment of the German-manufactured state-of-the-art gigantic machines, Pakistan has joined the club of countries that are using high-tech machines in execution of water and power projects, says a press release.
The machines will reduce the construction period by about 18 months and will provide an estimated benefit of Rs67 billion. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
The two machines were procured at a cost of about Rs19.5 billion, including the expenditure made on their shipment and installation.
Neelum-Jhelum project Chief Executive Officer Lieutenant General Muhammad Zubair said the cost of the two machines would be recovered in three years and these would also be used for other such projects, involving tunnels, in the future. He expressed the hope that the Neelum-Jhelum project, after completion, would reduce load-shedding by three hours in the country.
Zubair said about 40% work had been completed, adding the project had been facing shortage of funds for the last two months due to delay in release of money from the finance ministry. “These machines are able to make one-km tunnel every month.”
The project is being executed on priority to produce low-cost hydropower and win priority water rights over the Neelum and Jhelum rivers, as India is constructing Kishan Ganga project upstream of the rivers.
The hydropower project will contribute about 5.15 billion units of electricity per annum and annual benefits have been calculated at about Rs45 billion. It will pay back its cost in about seven years.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.