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December 13, 2020

Reviving DHA Cogen not to be easy: residents

Karachi

December 13, 2020

Mindful of challenges associated with any big public welfare initiative, Defence Housing Authority (DHA) residents believe that it would not be easy to revive DHA Cogen Limited, which will generate electricity and supply desalinated water under a memorandum of understanding signed on Friday.

Under the MoU that the Hub Power Company’s (Hubco) signed with the DHA, the revived company will generate and supply 84 megawatts of electricity to K-Electric, besides providing three million gallons of potable water to the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) per day.

Additionally, Hubco and the DHA plan to develop five million gallons of potable water per day through a project based on sea water reverse osmosis technology, for which Hubco already possesses the first right of refusal, an official of the power company has told The News.

The official says the MoU is about the revival of the old DHA Cogen Liminted, which has its multi purposes, such as electricity production and working on a seawater osmosis plant. However, it is the involvement of Karachi’s sole power producer, K-Electric (KE), which is yet to be determined in the project. “We are not sure if power will be directly handed over to the KE,” the official says, adding that since they have the first right of refusal with them, the DHA and Hubco will jointly conduct feasibility studies for the project. The official won’t speak of any timeframe for the feasibility studies.

The purpose of the MoU is to jointly evaluate the commercial and technical viability of the revival of DHA Cogen Limited and set up a five-million-gallon-a-day seawater reverse osmosis project at the site of DHA Cogen Limited.

According to the power company, the project to be constructed at the seafront of Phase VIII will be instrumental in resolving the water issues of the Defence area. Reviving the project will provide power at competitive rates and offer a scalable solution to the challenge of supply potable water to the residents. The DHA is collaborating with Hubco in respect of both the 5MGD project and the DCL revival project.

This is, however, not the first time that efforts are being made for the revival of DHA Cogen Limited. In the year 2014, the plant, built on a 10-acre area in Phase-VIII, headed towards its liquidation, as its owner failed to start full-fledged operations and the lenders demanded their money back, with the matter landing in court.

The plant back then could produce 94 megawatts of energy and 14 million litres of potable water per day. It was a $600milion project undertaken by the DHA.

Presenting the last budget, Miftah Ismail, the then finance minister of the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz, said, “To solve this [water crisis] longstanding problem, the federal government is today announcing a new scheme of a seawater desalination plant. This plant will be built by the private sector and will produce 50 million gallons of water a day. It will be my honour to play a role in solving the water problem for my city. For this purpose, the federal government will bridge the viability gap in partnership with the private sector.” Later, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf also made such promises, but nothing materialised.

DHA Society Resident Association President Sharafuddin Memon seems sceptical about the water plant. Speaking to The News on Saturday, he said that there was a desalination plant earlier, but it was scraped. Technically, he pointed out, there was a dim possibility for the revival of DHA Cogen. “In our last meeting with DHA officials, we were told they are reviving the river osmosis plant,” he shared, adding that they had been hearing about it for the last four years, but nothing ever materialised.

From the chief minister to the governor of Sindh, he said, the residents’ association had met all, but no one could solve the water crisis of DHA. “Instead of us purchasing water from the tanker mafia, we will be happy to have it through pipes.”

Currently, Memon said, on average one household spends Rs40,000 monthly to get water from the water tanker mafia. If there’s a huge house with a lot of family members, he said, this amount could be Rs80,000 for them, “and this is apart from the water tax that we pay to the CBC”.

Environmentalist Muhammad Saquib said a lot of work needed to be done for the revival of DHA Cogen. The sea, he said, had been so much polluted that treatment plants had to be made functional.

For a huge river osmosis which would treat high quantity of saline water, the company would have to see where they would dispose of brine. “The DHA would also have to see the reasons of failure of the existing plant,” he said, calling for studying social, environmental and economic aspects of the project.