Hope and fear

December 14,2016

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The government may have taken one step towards solving the troubled Nandipur thermal power plant by handing the operations over to a Chinese firm. The original plan for the Nandipur power plant was that it would be built by the Chinese firm, Dongfang Electric, and handed over to a Pakistani management team. However, the plant shut down days after the inauguration. Pakistani engineers could not revive the powerful plant despite numerous trainings in China. The embarrassment created a national scandal before the heat died down. An inquiry into the 425MW power plant had been announced but any findings have yet to be shared with the public. There have been allegations that key records with respect to the fuel purchasing for the power plant were destroyed in a mysterious fire. Now, the government seems to have agreed to a 10-year agreement with a Chinese firm in the hope that it would be able to make the power plant operational. It is expected to take over the plant in January 2017 after completing inspections of the current state of the project.

The Nandipur power plant has become a bit of an embarrassment for the sitting government. Billed as one of its pet projects, its cost escalated to over Rs60 billion before the power plant was launched in a big ceremony in May 2014. The need for transparency in how the project goes forward is obvious. This is why both the inquiry report into what went wrong with the project and details of how it plans to revive the project need to be shared with the public. It is expected that a clause will be built into the new agreement which would put the burden on the operating company in case it is unable to get the plant operational, but all such details must be shared. Questions are being asked about the project by both NAB and Nepra. The Nandipur project has become another symbol of how not to solve the power crisis in Pakistan. Caught in the quagmire between three different governments, it has already caused a loss of billions to the national exchequer. There is some hope, though, that the government has not rushed into another questionable agreement.




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