Hydropower projects on a snails pace

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By Samz PA

PAKISTAN IS facing an acute shortage of energy and ever since the countrys birth in 1947 electricity is a major energy resource for the country. Due to its rapid economic growth in recent years the demand for energy has been increasing at the rate of 10 to 12 per cent per annum. In recent years Pakistan demand has been forecasted by the Government of Pakistan that by year 2030 the estimated electricity energy demand will exceed the supply by 64 per cent.

The country has hydropower potential of over 120,000MW, of which 56,773MW is exploitable. However, it has only been able to tap 6,703MW. This is about six per cent of the potential and 32.8 per cent of the energy mix. They hydropower potential in Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa is 24736 MW, Gilgit-Baltistan 21125 MW, Punjab 7291 MW, Azad Jammu and Kashmir 6450 MW and Sindh 193 MW.

Besides the proven hydropower potential the government is not actively pursuing the hydropower projects. Starting with Diamer Bhasha dam to Neelum-Jehlum, every project is facing delay, which would imply a reasonable escalation in cost.

Bunji (7000 MW installed capacity) run-of-the-river project, is in an advanced stage of detailed engineering. It is almost 120 km upstream of Bhasha. It is generally presumed that the government is investing in the project without undertaking any study on transmission of bulk power and energy generated by the project. The installed capacity of the project has been exaggerated to a mythical extent (in all other studies the maximum installed capacity of Bunji is not above 1600 MW).

Dasu hydropower project is also a run-of-the-river project, but its feasibility is dependent on the flow regulation from Bhasha reservoir. The site of the Dasu hydropower project is 7km upstream of Dasu village on the Indus and 74km downstream of Diamer-Basha dam. It is located in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The executing agency has almost completed the feasibility as well as advanced detailed engineering. Without the guarantee of Bhasha s commissioning, Dasu is not a feasible project.

Neelum Jehlum hydropower project is a unique project where the main contractors were mobilised before the appointment of design and supervision consultants. The total cost of the project was estimated at Rs 84.5 billion in the PC-I with financial need to be partly met through the imposition of surcharge of 10 paisa per unit on power used for providing 50 per cent local component. The balance equity was to be arranged through loans, Sukuk bonds as well as $448 million from the Exim Bank of China and a $100 million from Dubai as part of the foreign component of the project. But the government has been unable to arrange external funding for Neelum-Jehlum hydroelectric project and pledges assistance of $548 million from Eximbank of China and Abu Dubai Fund for Development (ADFD) have not materialised.

However, the project cost rose after design changes deemed necessary in the wake of the 2005 earthquake. The project cost in the revised PC-I was estimated at Rs 274.88 billion by the ECNEC. With an installed capacity of 969-megawatts, the completion of project is considered important to overcome the prevailing energy crisis in the. About 42 per cent physical work on the project has so far been completed, but the financial constraints have become a major obstacle in the way of its completion.

Diamar Basha Dam is being given priority in government circles, besides no international donor ever committed to provide funding for the construction of Diamar Bhasha Dam project and the government has been unnecessarily delaying the project that increased its cost by $2 billion.

The proposed Diamar Bhasha Dam will be located on the Indus, about 200 miles upstream of Tarbela Dam and just downstream of Chilas Town, with the total storage capacity of 7.3 MAF and once completed, the dam would produce about 4,500 MW of electricity from 12 units. The proposed earth-rock-filled 660-foot dam will be 3,018 feet long and it will have a reservoir and catchments area of 27,700 acres and 152, 100 square kilometers respectively.

If Pakistan opts to continue with the construction of the Bhasha Dam, it would require upgradation of 323-km of Havelian-to-dam site road and relocation of 140-km of Sazin to Rajkot Bridge. The project would also need regradation of 310-km of approach road which would also need substantial widening and improvement before the start of construction on the main dam for transport of heavy-moving, construction and power house machinery. Two circuits of 500-KV transmission lines would also be needed over long and difficult stretches of seismically active hilly region for connectivity with the National Power Grid, the nearest point being Tarbela.

Mangla reservoir level should have been raised to 1210 mark. This was not achieved because of failure to evacuate people from the reservoir area. Delay in construction of colonies for the affectees is one of the major reasons for the delay in the project.

At this time when the Pakistan has been facing an unprecedented energy crisis, which has seriously affected the whole nation. Acute power outages have seriously paralysed the commercial and economic activities in the country. This shortage of power reflects the shortsightedness of our policy makers. Power situation in the country is getting worse and in near future it is clear that water will be another big issue if the government did not take concrete steps towards the solutions of these problems it could be too late.


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