EDITORIAL: The prime minister will have to do a lot more than order an inquiry into the latest “technical fault” at the Neelum-Jehlum Hydropower Project (NJHP) and wait for the result to take corrective action because authorities are still struggling to explain the last major breakdown, in July 2022, when the project was closed “due to major cracks in the tail race tunnel” and only resumed power generation 13 months later in Aug-Sep 2023.

Now, the 969-megawatt NJHP stopped functioning once again early morning on 1 May 2024 because two turbines had to be shut down “after aggravation of problems in the head race tunnel”. This came after two other turbines stopped working because of reduced pressure in the tunnel in early April, less than one week after the project recorded generation at full capacity.

This, sadly, has been the story of this troubled plant all along. And since you couldn’t bungle such a crucial project this badly even if you wanted to, there needs to be a separate investigation into just how much negligence, incompetence and/or corruption has played a part and, needless to say, those responsible must be made to pay for it. But that, too, hasn’t happened.

No wonder, then, that the project has already consumed more than $5 billion against an initial estimate of $40 million and still runs into technical issues that shut it down time and again.

Therefore, this time, it’s not just the plant and how quickly it resumes operations that is under the microscope, but also how soon the investigation ordered by the PM sees the light of day and what subsequent actions are taken.

The PM would know, no doubt, that his government has been struggling with legitimacy since the controversial election. That makes it all the more important to honour tall claims about governance and economic performance that were made at the oath-taking.

There’s no doubt that the people will be more than willing to put the bitterness of the past behind if some leader can take them out of their troubles. But the proof of the pudding always lies in the eating, and now is the time to test it.

Therefore, it is now up to the prime minister to show the people that the inquiry he has ordered into the latest NJHP shutdown will get to the bottom of the rot, sort it out, make heads roll, and ensure such things never happen again.

It’s a shame that a country with chronic power shortages, that too when it is on the brink of default and businesses and households are suffering alike, must also factor in completely unforced errors, just like the problems at NJHP.

It’s the people that pay for these losses at the end of the day, and their patience has already been tested enough by historic inflation, unemployment and inflated utility bills, among so many other troubles.

Breakdowns like NJHP’s not only take the system further towards collapse, but in the present environment also push the people one step closer to taking things in their own hands; a feature of crumbling societies of which history provides many examples.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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Rebirth May 26, 2024 08:18am
We must immediately renegotiate all power deals with the Chinese before they take control of the entire global semiconductor supply chain by taking over Taiwan and becoming the world’s sole superpower
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ali May 26, 2024 10:07am
thanks china for another failed project.
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Ch K A Nye May 26, 2024 12:29pm
How else can they run their thermal power plants of hydro is allowed to function?
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Pakistani May 26, 2024 05:14pm
Why do we need PM to order an inquiry? Isn't there an established protocol to investigate, remedy and take precautions for future?
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Ch K A Nye May 26, 2024 05:57pm
Speedy's "leadership" is dictated by his boss in Pindi.
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JSK May 26, 2024 06:28pm
Chinese TECH
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Re=== May 26, 2024 08:08pm
In the meantime, Pakistan is still paying interest on the loans obtained to build this plant. Of course we cannot call China out, as he is our brother, and will do everything in our "interest"
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Chawla.i May 26, 2024 10:10pm
We shd sit with IPPs to negotiate future strategy as present terms we cant afford..must renegotiate or USe All Means fr d sake of 250miln people...
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Arshad May 27, 2024 12:22pm
Rs. 515 Billion ($5.1 billion) Down The Drain.Com.........
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KU May 27, 2024 03:17pm
Any and every conspiracy assumption is possible, especially when we have a long rap sheet of dishonesty. In any case, independent enquiry is a must n affordable hydro-electricity a necessity.
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Javaid Shaheen May 28, 2024 12:42am
The chinese superpower is unable to deliver a simple project? No, its the mega million corruption that Pakistani politicians extract from each project- from lining their pockets to hiring 'selection'
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Petarianengineers May 29, 2024 04:17pm
It is going to be Nandipur2 or even worst than that.
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