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EDITORIAL: So, it turns out that the “crown jewel” 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHPP), which has a history of breaking down and causing problems more often than functioning normally, will most likely be offline for a good two years because the “mishap” that shut it down once again more than two years ago remains a mystery.

All the press has been able to report so far is that the scale of decline in headrace tunnel pressure (HRT) and dewatering of a 17km section of the tunnel indicated “some crack or collapse”, but the exact situation is still far from clear.

It’s also been reported that a complete NJHPP shutdown means direct losses of more than Rs55 billion a year and indirect impact in the form of expensive replacement fuel – Rs90bn-Rs150bn – depending upon the source. That means a double whammy for a weak and insecure government struggling with power generation capacity and a very uncomfortable fiscal squeeze. But that should be all the more reason to speed up investigation and repair work, which is not how things are moving on the ground.

It turns out that even though the prime minister visited the site on May 7 and announced a third-party investigation, complete with loud warnings about serious punishment in case of major mistakes and/or oversights, it still took more than two weeks for a formal committee to be constituted.

It’s headed by a former bureaucrat, which explains procedural delaying and slowing down tactics typical of the civil service, which is a big shame in this case since it requires very quick movement to discover all the faults and identify guilty parties, if any.

It’s interesting that an official has been quoted in the press as not entirely ruling out sabotage. Calling it a “distant possibility”, given the tight security and many long kilometres of underground structures, it was still possible in light of a recent maintenance exercise carried out at the tunnel.

Needless to say, of course, that however “distant” the chance of foul play, it still needs to be thoroughly and promptly investigated. That makes the delay in starting the official investigation even more troubling.

Why hasn’t the prime minister taken notice of this foot-dragging despite very stern orders from his office? Now, as the government scrambles to make up for the many billions in losses, surely it understands that taxpayer money will have to foot the bill at the end of the day.

People are already understandably upset that they must bail the government out of its many troubles, with the power sector being a particularly thorny issue. The news of a likely very long NJHPP breakdown has come at a particularly uncomfortable time for everybody.

Energy has become unaffordable for a big part of the country’s population. And with another IMF programme, and more taxes and inflated bills, just around the corner, people’s anger might soon boil to uncontrollable levels.

Therefore, the least the government can do is ensure that its own order of a proper investigation into the NJHPP disaster is carried out, transparently and efficiently. That is the least to be expected. Yet, given its performance, even this much seems too much to ask for.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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JSK Jun 15, 2024 08:49am
Make CHINESE accountable
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Arshad Jun 15, 2024 09:14am
Oops. Looks like our "IRON BROTHER" forgot to put IRON in the Tunnel.....
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Orion Jun 15, 2024 09:27am
Looks like it was a flawed idea to begin with. Now we are paying the price of insufficient scrutiny and lack of due diligence.
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KU Jun 15, 2024 09:52am
Speculations on this issue does not show professional journalism, media is supposed to investigate n tell truth. The corrupt nature of our govt intentions may be true, it's Pakistan's tragic story.
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Azeem Hakro Jun 15, 2024 11:45am
Please allow 200 words per comment. It's challenging to express our viewpoint within the 200 character limit. I request editor to increase the comment limit to 200 words.
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fuad Jun 15, 2024 03:54pm
Successive Chairmen WAPDA (project period), Project Director(s) should b detained immediately and an inquiry launched to assess gross negligence on an issue which, on record, was inevitable.
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Aam Aadmi Jun 15, 2024 05:03pm
The entire history of NJ Project needs an impartial scrutiny, right from the beginning to the end and it's current fiasco. There may be much more to it than meets the eye.
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Sagar Baloch Jun 15, 2024 06:43pm
2 weeks for committee.2 months for detecting the fault.1 year for the blame game.1 year for approving the budget for repair and 2 more years for the work to be done.6 months for practical testing.
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Sagar Baloch Jun 15, 2024 06:44pm
@Azeem Hakro, even your 200 digits will await moderation.
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Nasrullah Khan Jun 15, 2024 06:52pm
Weak and unstable govt has nothing to do with technical faults developing on a new type of technology in pakistan. Change the chsirman if you want to succeed technically
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Jaeger Jun 15, 2024 07:35pm
Well, tbh, kashmiris have a right to be angry, they pay extra taxes for this project and yet they don't geta single watt of electricity for themselves
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Onion Jun 15, 2024 08:09pm
The possibility of Sabotage by the enemy may not be ruled out. But again.. its the Nation's (tax payer) money afterall! People of Pakistan should open their eyes.
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Power Master Jun 15, 2024 08:53pm
I m sure root cause is bribe Pakistani speciality
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Fazal karim Jun 15, 2024 09:17pm
Nobody think about huge loss of national exchequer except self benefit
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Aamir Latif Jun 15, 2024 09:33pm
It's a serious technical flaw in engineering design, it should be investigated by third party highly experienced civil engineering firm with relevant experiience. PM should stop his stereo bullies
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Tipu Sheikh Jun 15, 2024 11:52pm
Corruption, Corruption & Corruption Is the game in town.
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AAN Jun 16, 2024 06:18am
There may be two chances sabotage or flawed design please make analysis. But I am afraid nothing will happen as poor tax payer money has no value and it is treated as toilet paper.
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Syed Aamir Bukhari Jun 16, 2024 10:33am
Even if this proj comes onlin what wl u do 4 cap paymnt. We hv over suply elec n pay 4 excess elec 4, we pay in bills. 1st step to stop cap paymts going to big shots n punish those resp 4 catastropy
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Haleemeh Jun 16, 2024 11:08am
It's a big shame all govts previously been focusing only making roads and main infrastructure of facilitation been neglacted .... This be aozr income program and other loan programs should be banned as we don't pay taxes for khairat we pay for countries development. Current govt is also playing tom and Jerry games the way Khan and zardaris been playing
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Zafar Jun 16, 2024 11:26am
The investigation and subsequent repairs must Immediately be done by internationally reputable firms.
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NADEEM KHAN Jun 16, 2024 12:22pm
What a shame.
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Mohsin Alim Qazi Jun 16, 2024 01:45pm
Chn. contractor blamed Pak Gov for "forcibly speeding up" the construction despite pointing out risks to project by reducing curing times. Ironically it was Shahbaz who passed ordered on behalf of NS
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Dr Saad ur Rehman Jun 16, 2024 02:13pm
Unacceptable. The people have paid a surcharge for almost 17 years to invest in our future energy requirements.And this is what we get.
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M. Saeed Jun 16, 2024 02:44pm
Neelam Jehlum project was delayed for 3 years by the then Minister Babar Awan for "Personal Reasons'", that increased the cost of the project and subsequent unsurmountable problems.
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M. Saeed Jun 16, 2024 02:48pm
It should be noted that, Neelum Jehlum is a first private sector project, which was only approved and started exclusively for mega corruption. Already it's cost has been tripped.
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fuad Jun 16, 2024 04:11pm
Love it the way BR does selective censoring. BR journalists, you should be ashamed of your journalism and ethics
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Ch K A Nye Jun 16, 2024 08:21pm
@Arshad , or more likely the iron was diverted to the market.
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ZTC Jun 17, 2024 12:11am
One has to understand that this was a construction contract only. The contractor just followed the design prepared by the consultants of WAPDA. It is reported that the contractor tried to warn wapda.
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ZTC Jun 17, 2024 12:13am
@JSK, Chinese contractor was not responsible for design. The type of protection for underground works was finalised by consultants. It was reminded by the contractor that the design has flaws but
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ali Jun 17, 2024 03:01am
another useless china project for pakistan alongwith many IPP projects running on IMPORTED fuel . is china really a friend ??
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Harbans Singh Sran Jun 17, 2024 06:03am
Gold maal hai baee sab Chinese maal hai .
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Hussein El-Edroos Jun 17, 2024 06:45am
It is unfortunate that the project has been shutdown so soon after a previous breakdown. Though the Chinese built the project there were consultants to advise and check.
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Munir Gul Jun 17, 2024 08:00am
Investigation should be headed by an experienced engineer, not a beaurocrat. Representative of the contractor should also be associated in the investigation.
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irfan daud Jun 17, 2024 03:33pm
Professor Xuemei highlighted the vast difference about CPEC, stating, “Pakistani people believe [CPEC] is their hope to change their lives”, while for China, it is “just a project of the BRI.”
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Yaqootmir Jun 17, 2024 11:31pm
Sabotage is a REAL possibility.
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IMTIAZ CASSUM AGBOATWALA Jun 19, 2024 04:32pm
Technically we are poor in management and governance . Bureaucrats are not motivated to serve the people . The term ' public servant ' is a misnomer.
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Zarzan khan Jun 20, 2024 02:38am
As usual corruption and syphoning of funds, leaving structural flaws, all under PDM.
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Akif Janjua Jun 20, 2024 10:53am
Ghareeeb logon ki Bad'dua.. Neelum Jehlum sucharge jo lia Bills mai :)
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