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Newly constructed barrages: Punjab government decides to set up small hydropower units

The Punjab government has decided to establish small hydropower units at newly constructed barrages including New Khanki Barrage being funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB is extending $270 million loan (87 per cent) for New Khanki Barrage (NKB) whereas the share of the Punjab government is $39 million (13 per cent). Total cost of the project has been estimated at Rs 23.442 billion.

The Punjab government has planned to establish two small hydropower units of 27 MW. This was disclosed by Project Director Syed Mehmood ul Hasan during a visit to New Khanki Barrage which was at very initial stage. The visit was arranged by the ADB Mission, Islamabad.

The Khanki Headworks is 120-year-old headworks of Pakistan located at river Chenab in Tehsil Wazirabad. The new barrage is being constructed at Chenab River approximately at 900 feet downstream of existing headworks and will replace the obsolete water distribution system at the barrage. The Project Director claimed that the new barrage would have the canal network of 2,925 channels(4,680 km) irrigating more than 3.301 million acres of eight districts of central Punjab ie Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Chiniot, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Jhang, and Toba Tek Singh and also save agriculture and fisheries in these districts.

He also claimed that with the replacement of old Khanki Barrage, 10 per cent more land in eight districts would be irrigated which implied that it would have better impact on the life of the farmers. He was of the view that the existing Khanki Headworks was running at high risk and could cause loss of several crop seasons if it failed. The New Khanki Barrage would reliably divert 11,653 cusecs of irrigation supplies to the downstream Lower Chenan Canal (LCC) irrigating 1.2 million hectares.

The NKB will have an increase in safe flood capacity from 800,000 cusecs to 11,000,00 cusecs. In reply to a question, Syed Mehmood ul Hasan said that they were following the ADB's procurement rules which had preference over domestic rules as these were more comprehensive than Pakistan's procurement rules. "It was agreed between the ADB and Punjab government that process will be completed as per international standards. Even selection of engineering firm and contractors are in accordance with the ADB rules to ensure transparency in the process," he added.

He was of the view that in case of financial mismanagement, the official of ADB's anti corruption unit would visit the project to probe the matter in detail. Answering another question, he said that the development work was ahead of schedule and M/s Descon, the contracting firm, was going forward as per plan.

"We took timely decision to save more than 100 years old barrage with better planning," he continued. Replying to a question, he said that water flows would increase till 2030 due to melting of glaciers but thereafter the situation would not be better. He expressed disappointment over wastage of 35 MAF water per year due to ill planning and disclosed that the policymakers faced questions from international community on wastage of precious water. It is pertinent to mention here M/s PBC had proposed replacement of existing Khanki Headworks with new barrage of 900 feet down steam of existing weir on the following basis: (i) aging effect; (ii) capacity constraints; (iii) lack of effective control on river regulation; (iv) inefficient and insufficient physical communication between the two banks; (v) incapability of existing weir for gates installation and (vi) inadequacy for existing weir for automation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2013