Potential for constructing hydropower plants

Dr Habib Gul

PAKISTAN is facing load shedding with constant upward trend in the tariffs, which hampers socio-economic development, increases grievances of general masses and affects exports negatively. The international lending agencies such as Asian Development Bank has also expressed a serious concern over our slow progress in implementation of energy sector projects during the annual portfolio review of multilateral lending agency and their loan utilization.
In our country, the hydropower sector is beset with apparently insurmountable problems and steeped in backwardness. The Government realizes these impediments but in spite of existing enormous potential and external financial support, there is dearth of capacity of both committed, trained men and standard material. Country like Pakistan which has immense potential of hydel power production but is not producing cheap and clean power by tapping enormous hydel source, gives alarm to grave issues.
General Parvez Musharraf, former President of Pakistan laid down foundation stone of Diamer Bhasha Dam a long time ago and it should have been near completion by now but the Federal cabinet of Pakistan approved on September 11, 2016, the plan for the acquisition of land required for this dam. The Government, repeated ten years old assurance that all required measures are being taken for the construction of this dam. On the other side, work on the dam will start only after availability of funds from the donors and search for which is still underway.
The first phase of Dasu, district Kohistan’s 4,320 MW hydropower plant of US $ 2.5 billion is in doldrums owing to disputes among WAPDA, Federal Government and Provincial Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. The threat of refusal of the World Bank funding for the land acquisition highly exists because of the conditionality being imposed by the bank that the amount earmarked for land acquisition must be disbursed within two years which would from the loan effectiveness is being expired on 30 November, 2016. Nevertheless, the land for the dam is not yet acquired. There are some serious disputes among stakeholders on certain issues of this plant and are being pleaded in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It does not look easy that its construction would be made within the stipulated period by the WAPDA.
The Neelum-Jhelum HPP of 979 MW is a unique project not only in the sense that it is being constructed 90 percent under-ground but the price escalation has been put on the poor consumer before delivering a single unit of power to them. This project is already delayed in spite of the Prime Minister of Pakistan personal interest in its timely completion. The Tarbela-IV Extension of 1,500 MW is being implemented with the assistance of China like the Neelum-Jhelum HPP. It would not be completed timely due to a site accident and the experts advising to not press for quick work as it will negatively affect its efficiency.
In the past, micro and mini (MMHP) hydropower power plants were constructed with own resources but now the KPK Government planned to extend the technology at mass basis. Most of such plants are installed with financial and to some extent technical assistance of foreign agencies, such as European Union, ADB etc. As the writer of this article related with MHP technology from 1977 to 2009, has the view that these can play a pivotal role in the development of far flung rural areas subject to their timely monitoring and evaluation through the person or parties well versed in their job. It is learnt that the European Union Islamabad Office, has appointed a solar energy expert for conducting monitoring of hydropower plants, constructed by Sarhad Rural Support Programme (an NGO) with their financial support in KPK which is not justified.
Pakistan lacks skilled technical staff for construction of, more or less, all categories of hydropower plants both constructed on dams and on run of rivers. Most of the officials of the project sites are unaware of the customs and traditions of the surroundings due to which a numbers of issue arose before and during the construction work. Supporting staff also needs improvement in their efficiency. Bureaucratic behaviour commonly known as red tape reduces the projects charm for donors. Unnecessary delay in project implementation is the major cause of cost escalation. Approval of PC-Is i.e., project documents as well as administrative approval at higher level take long-time for commencement of Project.
Mismanagement, ill-planning, corruption and a number of other self-created problems, the situation has become chronic. Pakistan needs substantial power supply at affordable rate and it can serve by judicious use of hydel resources with proper state of art. For successful implementation of hydropower projects, we may also keep Saudi Arabia as an example.
When King Abdul Aziz was informed that huge quantity of oil has been discovered in Saudi Arabia, he invited the Kingdom technocrats, engineers, scientists and financial experts and discussed about earliest possible exploration. The Kingdom top engineers and scientists, present in the meeting informed the King that they have potential to explore the oil in the period desired by His Excellency, if estimated amount is provided. The amount was instantly arranged by the King. The King, after expiring the planned period, enquired about the progress. In reply, the Director who was a foreign qualified Saudi, submitted that more funds and time period are required.
The King extended the period and released the additional funds. Before the expiry of extended period for the second time, the Project Director approached the King and requested for extension of time period and for providing further additional fund. The King very kindly accepted his demand with the direction to complete the project within stipulated period and available fund but the project staff failed to show any progress. The King who was also a competent administrator, told the oil exploration’s Project Director that “you and your staff are beyond the potential to explore oil in the Kingdom”. Then the King approached to America; ARAMCO was established and now, the oil is benefitting Saudi Arabia as well as America.
— The writer is a former Deputy Director General, Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies.

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