ISLAMABAD: Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman Zafar Mehmood has said that the Tarbela fourth extension hydropower project would be completed in June 2017, enabling the country to add 1,410 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.
The Tarbela dam was built in 1974, boasting 3,478MW generation capacity. The decision to complete the Tarbela-4 extension would take the capacity to 4,888MW with plans to construct the fifth extension also in the pipeline. Construction work on the latest extension is scheduled to start in March 2016 with World Bank confirming to finance the project.
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While briefing a group of journalists at Tarbela dam, Mehmood said the fourth extension would be completed a year before its original deadline and an additional sum of $51 million would be paid to the contractor to ensure it happens.
“The original completion date of three units of the Tarbela-4th extension hydropower project was scheduled in February 2018, but by completing it in June 2017, energy valuing $300 million will be generated during this year,” he said, adding that the dam had five tunnels but power houses were installed at three of them.
Under the fourth extension project, a power house would be set up at tunnel four whereas work on the fifth extension hydropower project would be started soon. “Over 40% of the civil work on the fourth extension project has been completed, while the electrical and mechanical work is on target.”
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He said the World Bank had floated the idea of converting tunnel five into power generation in 2011.
The current tunnel function is to release irrigation water before reservoir is raised to spillways level.
Mehmood said the World Bank was financing $2.5 million for the study and the project is scheduled to be completed in 39 months.
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He said the Tarbela dam was built to store water for irrigation purpose and electricity was a by-product. Hence, Wapda is bound to follow orders of water regulator, the Indus River System Authority (Irsa), to release water that would meet irrigation demand of provinces.
“However, we have an evaluation study that Tarbela-4 and 5 extension hydropower projects were feasible,” he said, adding that the life of Tarbela dam was 50 years. He also disclosed that World Bank had financed Tarbela dam and its last instalment of loan was paid in 2014.
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He also stated that there was a plan to replace the existing turbines of Tarbela dam. “At present, there is modern technology available in the market which is more efficient,” he said. “Replacing existing turbines would result in enhancing generation capacity from 3,478 MW to 4,000 MW.”
However, he cautioned that this plan would require huge investments.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.
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