A parliamentary panel was informed on Tuesday about the serious threat of collapse of the tunnel of Neelum – Jhelum project.
Chairman National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), Tauseef Farooqi drew the attention of the parliamentary panel towards the serious threat pertaining to the closure of the tunnel of the Neelum-Jhelum project.
Responding to queries at the Senate Standing Committee on Power, Farooqi said that the greatest fear relates to the question: “What will happen if the rest of the tunnel collapses?”
He stated that the project has been closed since July 2022 and that an amount of Rs10 billion per month was being paid by consumers due to the closure.
The Neelum-Jhelum power plant suffered a fault following the blockage of water in the tunnel area of 3.5 kilometres that led to the shutdown of the plant. This also took away 950 MW of electricity from the national grid amid prolonged power outages in the country.
“If this tunnel remains closed for a year, consumers will suffer a loss of Rs1.2 billion,” Farooqi told the committee.
Chairman of the Standing Committee, Senator Saifullah Abro expressed concern over the state of affairs at the key hydro-electric project of the country and asked the Nepra chairman for his views regarding the repair works.
Responding, Farooqui asked, “The mending work at the tunnel is in progress – but what is the guarantee that it will not collapse at a later stage?”
Meanwhile, Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project CEO, Muhammad Irfan said that the restoration work at the tunnel will be complete by June 2023.
He informed the committee that a team of international experts had submitted two preliminary reports after inspecting the tunnel and had identified eight causes of the tunnel’s collapse. However, the final report has yet to be submitted.
The project CEO further underlined that the root cause of the tunnel collapse was the pressure of the mountain on the underground tunnel.
The committee was informed by officials that the project had been completed without financial closure, as the project was in a disputed area and it was difficult to get international loans for its completion.
Senator Asad Junejo suggested that the committee recommend a thorough inspection of the tunnel.
The committee was briefed over the Nandipur power plant and the chairman of the committee said that the re-tenders and bidding process for the project could have been completed in a month’s time.
Senator Abro expressed concerns that not only the relevant authorities at the Nandipur power plant but even officials of the power division have failed to provide a satisfactory answer in the committee meetings.
The senior officers of the power division slammed the officials of the Nandipur Power plant for not giving relevant and updated answers to the queries.
The committee members expressed dismay over the performance of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) and some even suggested shutting it down.
While hearing the briefing over K-Electric (KE), Senator Abro emphasised that the committee members were not corrupt and will not let the electric company get away with its illegalities.
“Why has KE not deposited Rs58 billion of the revolving loan till now?” In addition, he inquired as to why the KE officials failed to provide details of the government’s liabilities in the revolving loans to the committee.
The committee members asked why the contract with KE that expired in 2015 had not been renewed until 2022 and questioned the KE CEO’s absencefrom the committee meetings.
The committee decided that if the CEO of KE did not show up in the next meeting and if proper replies were not presented to the committee, the matter will be referred to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for an inquiry.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2022.