Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project suffers damage worth Rs22.5 billion after tunnel collapse

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Islamabad: A blockage that emerged in the 3.5km Tail Race Tunnel (TRT) has rendered the 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project inoperable since July 6, causing an estimated Rs22.50 billion in damage.

A senior representative of the Neelum-Jehlum Hydropower Company Limited (NJHPCL) announced: “The project will now come on stream by the end of February 2023. Till February 2023, the project would brave a business loss of Rs20 billion.”

Asked if the government or the NICL (National Insurance Company Limited) would be responsible for the loss, the official responded that both the TRT and business loss heads are covered by the insurance contract. Thus, WAPDA will not be responsible for the loss.

“NICL has a 7% share and a group of Chinese companies 93% in the insurance amount. And they will share the cost to be incurred on making the project operational.”

“In three months of the summer season, four units (turbines) of the project become operational, in 6 months, three units and in three months of winter, only one unit runs depending on flows of water,” according to a statement by the representative responding to a query, about the Neelum-Jehlum hydropower project generated revenue of Rs48–50 billion.

The official said that authorities have decided to purchase the maintenance vehicle for the inspection of the tunnel and complete the construction of the tunnel as soon as possible.

The initial report about the tunnel debacle suggests that on July 04, 2022, when the plant was running at its full capacity (969MW), an abnormal increase in water leakage was observed in the powerhouse, which was controlled through continuous drainage pumps. Upon investigation, high water pressure in the Tail Race Tunnel (TRT) was observed.

Accordingly, on July 05, 2022, it was concluded by the project consultants that an abnormal increase in TRT pressure and water leakages/seepage in the powerhouse were due to blockage in TRT. Considering the safety of the power structure and all other equipment/machinery, units were shut down gradually. As a result, the powerhouse was shut down on July 06, 2022.

The Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, which cost Rs 430 billion to complete, began operating in April 2018 beneath the AJK’s deep mountains, where the geology is neither predictable nor readable. 

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