Monday May 27, 2024

One dam a decade: The only way to water, power independence

By Mansoor Ahmad
September 07, 2017

LAHORE: Muzzamil Hussain, chairman Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA), during his first year in the office zoomed in on one thing only and that was bringing as many otherwise ‘dead’ projects back to life as possible. These projects, despite having great economic value for the country, were lying in limbo for years even after consuming billions of rupees. 

Hussain, during an exclusive interview, shared with The News his vision and shed light on the driving forces behind the whopping efforts that went into resurrecting the power projects, which would be adding around 2500 megawatts (MW) of hydroelectric power into the system by May 2018. 

Following are the highlights of the interview.

Q: Can you name the projects that were at a standstill when you assumed the office as chairman Wapda?

A: Let’s start with Kachhi Canal project. It was taken up 15 years back and was almost abandoned after spending a huge amount of Rs57 billion. It was planned to provide irrigation water to many areas of Balochistan. Our turnaround team has accelerated work on this project. The canal has been lined across its route from Punjab to Balochistan to ensure there’s no seepage. The first and the most difficult phase of the canal, spreading over 363 kilometers has been completed recently. It would take irrigation water to 72,000 acres of fertile land in Dera Bughti, bringing prosperity in the area. The completion of next two phases should cause no problem. Upon completion this canal would irrigate 6,41,000 acres of farmland.

Moreover, the financial closure for Dasu, a major dam on the Indus, was a key achievement. It was because the contracts were awarded not only without the financial closure, but also acquisition of land on which the construction was to be done before I had taken over. The Wapa raised Rs144 billion from domestic banks on the strength of bankable feasibility. It further arranged a loan of $350 million from a Swiss bank for the purchase of generating machinery. The phase one of the project, after its completion in 2022, would add 2200 MW to the national grid.

The stagnant Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant was revitalised again through private sector loan and hopefully will be producing 969 MW by May 2018. On the other hand, Tarbela 4 project was facing inordinate delays. With the efforts of turnaround team the project would start power generation by the end of this year, while full (1400 MW) production is expected by May 2018. I must add that Golan Gol 101 MW power project is also ready. Wapda would supply an additional, a little over 2450 MW hydro-electric power, to the national grid by May 2018.

Q: What are the current priorities of the country’s largest power utility under your chairmanship?

A: The authority is cognisant of the fact that Pakistan needs both water and power. In my opinion water availability is a major issue compared with power that in itself is a huge problem. Pakistan is among the top 15 water-stressed countries in the world that as the availability of per capita water has gradually gone down from 5000 cusec meter per person in 1950 to only 948 cusecs meter per person now.

The most regrettable thing in this regard is that we are misusing even this scarce resource due to mismanagement.

Currently, 145 million acre feet of water are consumed yearly in Pakistan. We have a storage capacity of only 14 million acre feet that is less than 10 percent of the total use. Our agriculture uses 90 million acre feet or about 2/3rd of the entire water that is available per year.

Unfortunately over 50 percent of this water is lost due to theft and seepage.

The farmers actually get only 45-40 million acre feet of this water. We throw on average 30 million acre feet of water in sea. About 80 percent of this 145 million acre feet water is available during only three summer months, while 20 percent of the rest is available in remaining 265 days.

Q: What can be done to improve the water situation? Also, how many dams can be built on river Indus?

A: Water shortage is more of an upshot of mismanagement than any other factor. In Wapda, we have introduced a new slogan, “One Dam Every Decade.” We must construct one mega water reservoir in each of the next six decades. We have identified six sites where these dams could be constructed in a systematic manner.

The sites include Shaok dam, another dam above Sakurdu, one dam at Sakurdo. Then there are dams like Yulup, Bunji, Daimer Bhasha, and Kalabagh.

Diamer Bhasha could be built in seven years if regular funding is available.

Wapda has proposed to the federal government to ensure availability of Rs100 billion every year for construction of the dam. We would need around Rs35 billion each year from the government, while rest would be managed by our own resources and bank loans.