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Top Story

January 31, 2018

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Will Neelum-Jhelum project get operational by March 23?

ISLAMABAD: In a major setback the much-touted Rs500.343 billion Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project with capacity to generate 969MW may not be able to come on stream even in the third week of March as the retaining wall of its rock filled dam has got shifted from its original position.

The faulty design has led to the shifting of the retaining wall of the dam, a top source told The News while referring to viewpoint of the contractor of the project about this ugly happening. Confirmed by three top officials of Wapda and Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Company, the project is going to be delayed by June-July and it will not be possible to have electricity from the project in March.

And more importantly, the C-I tunnel will take 3-4 months more to get ready as concrete lining of the tunnel is still under construction and the communication system between the three sites C-1, C-2 and C-3 is yet to be established; so far mobile phones are being used to maintain the connectivity between the officials working on the three sites.

However, Wapda Chairman Gen Muzzammil Hussain (retd) emphatically denied any damage to the retaining wall of the dam saying that some vested interests want the delay of the project, but it will come on stream in March, this year with first turbine generating electricity. To a question on delay in C-1 tunnel, he brushed aside the impression saying: “We have entered the phase of fine tuning of everything in the project”.

When contacted, the CEO of the NJHPC Brig Zarin (R) said when retaining wall of the dam was loaded to design height 1017 meter, a slight movement was observed 18mm in top slab by end November 2017. Mitigation measures were taken and 90 percent work on it was completed. He said it is usual in dams when loaded and was in no way affecting our schedule. He stressed claiming that the first turbine of 242 MW will start generating electricity on March 23.

About the C-1 tunnel, he said when we removed ventilation system some 48 km long, we faced ventilation problem at C-1 tunnel which was foreseen, so we took timely remedial measures. As far as concrete lining is concerned, he said yes the concrete lining is under way and to this effect 9 meter concreting is left at C-1 which is last pour and it will take another two days to get finished.

The pressurisation of waterway system from tail end is in progress since January 5 as planned. However, after concrete lining, the uphill task of cleaning the tunnel will get started. About the communication system between the three sites, he admitted that the state-of-the-art system based on latest fibre optic is being laid down and to this effect the contractor has started its work and hopefully the system will be installed by May. However, the unit control panels have also been established for communication purposes.  

After the new management has taken over the project, it managed to get the extension of one year by January 31, 2018 to complete the project. The new management first expelled William Bobbs—the consultant and then fired the second consultant Mr Peter. The experts are saying that their expulsion has exposed the new management to delaying of the project.

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