MUZAFARABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Monday warned political parties and agents against exploiting the acute energy and power crisis for political gains. “Everyone should join hands to find a solution to the energy crisis, instead of doing politics on this issue,” he held.
Addressing a function following the inauguration of tunnel breaking machines (TBMs) at the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project, the prime minister asserted that the government had been making sincere efforts to resolve the energy crisis and a number of different projects, especially in the hydro sector, were currently underway.
“Those who think they could use it for their political motives have their own choice but in my point of view we all should use all our resources to solve such problems,” he added. He also announced he would be visiting the Thar Coal Project in a few days to initiate another project, and that there were 16 more projects in the pipeline to help generate cheap electricity and provide relief to the masses.
The prime minister said that President Asif Ali Zardari had been taking a keen and personal interest in finding a permanent solution to the energy crisis, and that the president had directed the government to focus on increasing the power generation — particularly in the cheap and cost-effective field of hydropower. The premier also said the government was striving to generate electricity through alternative means, such as solar and wind energy.
Prime Minister Ashraf explained that thermal power generation was costly and that the government was providing a Rs209 billion subsidy annually in this regard. He regretted that previous governments had not paid any attention to improving the power generation in the country, and claimed that the incumbent government had added more than 3,200MW to the national grid. Addressing the gathering, the prime minister said it was highly unfortunate that in the previous 10 years not even a single megawatt had been added to the national grid. “Though it was expensive, but [still] the PPP government added 3,200MW to the national grid through thermal electricity, which was produced after burning oil and gas which cost more,” he said.
He expressed his satisfaction at the progress of work on the Neelum-Jhelum project, and said development was in full swing despite some initial setbacks. He said the project, which would help generate approximately 1,000MW of affordable electricity, would go a long way in reducing loadshedding in the country. He stressed on the need to expedite the project, and called on the teams to use the latest TBMs to complete the project in the shortest-possible time.
Prime Minister Ashraf said the 65-km-long tunnel would be the first of its kind in the country, and that its powerhouse would also be located underground. He further revealed that water from the Neelum River would be diverted to the Jhelum River, thus helping in the generation of electricity.
The premier appreciated the contribution of Pakistani and Chinese engineers and especially thanked China for its cooperation and assistance in the execution of the project.
Speaking on the occasion, Federal Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar said that the government had successfully initiated a number of projects that would help generate upto 20,000MW electricity in the next couple of years. He also said that presently the hydel sector’s share stood at 32 percent, while the government planned to increase this share to 66 percent by 2025.
Minister for Kashmir Affairs Mian Manzoor Wattoo said that the project was designed to produce cheap electricity for the poor masses. He said that there was plenty of hue and cry on the constitutional amendment in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and that their government was planning to enhance seats in the AJK legislative assembly. He also said he had summoned a meeting of all the political parties in the AJK and assured them that their recommendations would be given due importance.
Prime Minister of AJK Chaudhry Abdul Majid, meanwhile, said the rivers of Kashmir had the capacity to generate over 40,000MW power. He said that 64 years ago Kashmiris had decided to support Pakistan, and were still committed to doing so.
Earlier, the premier formally inaugurated two tunnel boring machines (TBMS) following their successful installation at one of the sites of the 969MW Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project near Thotha Majoi in Azad Kashmir. Following the deployment of the two German-manufactured state-of-the-art gigantic TBMs, Pakistan has joined the club of those countries that are using high-tech machines for the execution of their water and hydropower sector projects.
The two TBMs were procured at a cost of Rs19.5 billion. This cost also includes the expenditure incurred on their shipment to and installation at the site. The deployment of TBMs will reduce the construction period by about 18 months, and will result in an estimated benefit of Rs67 billion.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Neelum Jehlum Hydropower Project Lieutenant General Muhammad Zubair said the cost of the two machines would be recovered in three years. He also said the machines could be used for other such projects in the future, and that the completion of the venture could help reduce three hours of loadshedding.
It is pertinent to mention that the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project is being executed on a priority-basis to induct low-cost hydel electricity in the national grid, and to establish priority water rights over the Neelum and Jhelum rivers, as India is also constructing the Kishan Ganga Project upstream of Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project.
The Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project is scheduled to be completed in 2016. On completion, the project will contribute about 5.15 billion units of low-cost electricity per annum to the country.