Lahore - With a view to optimal utilization of water and hydropower resources in the country, Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), which has succeeded to accomplish three power projects of around 2,500MW this year, is now working on another eight hydropower projects and water reservoirs with cumulative power generation capacity of 9,832MW and gross water storage capacity of 11 million acre feet (MAF). The projects have suffered inordinate delays primarily due to financial issues, absence of political will, poor planning, lack of transparency and uncertain law and order situation.

Officials in Water and Power Ministry said three hydropower projects, including Neelum Jhelum, Tarbela 4th Extension and Golen Gol with electricity generation capacity of 2,485 MW in total, were completed in Feb, March and April this year respectively. In addition, Phase-I of Kachhi Canal was also completed in Sept 2017 to irrigate 72,000 acres of land in Dera Bugti, Balochistan.

The ongoing hydropower projects included 83MW Kurram Tangi hydro power project with water storage capacity of 0.9 MAF, 4,320MW Dasu hydropower project, 4,500MW Diamer Bhasha hydro power project also having water storage capacity of 6.4MAF, 800MW Mohmand hydropower project with water storage capacity of 0.67MAF and 128MW Keyal Khwar hydropower project. As per the documents available with The Nation, the stage-I of 83MW Kurram Tangi hydropower project is expected to be completed in 2019 while stage-I of the run of the river (RoR) Dasu project is likely to commission in 2022. The Bhasha Dam will take at least nine years if construction work on main dam is started now while 800MW Mohmand hydropower project will be completed in six years after start of construction work on main dam. Officials said the RoR Keyal Khwar project may be completed in five years, as its construction work has not been started yet. Once completed, these projects will go a long way in fulfilling the increasing requirements of water and power.

The under construction water reservoirs included Nai Gaj Dam with 0.16MAF water storage capacity (51 percent completed), Muzaffargarh & TP Link Canal lining (40 percent completed), RBOD-I (82 percent completed) and RBOD-III (84 percent completed).

The Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) is an important drainage project aimed at carrying effluent from upper Sindh and Balochistan to the Arabian Sea through the Gharo creek in Thatta district. According to the sources, the three phases of the project, including RBOD-I, II and III, have been hit by cost overruns in the last 15 years for one reason or the other. The three phases of the RBOD are being completed at a cost of around Rs90 billion.

The first and third phases are being executed by Wapda while the second phase, executed by the Sindh government through the Frontier Works Organisation, is designed to bypass Manchar Lake destroyed by wastewater. They said slow fund releases have largely affected the work progress. The first and third phases of the RBOD are slated to be completed in November 2019 and the RBOD-II in June 2019.

Officials said Wapda is planning to start construction work on Diamer Bhasha Dam and Mohmand Dam this year. Stage-I of Dasu Hydropower Project will come on line in 2022, while Stage-II will be completed in 2025, both stages will add 4320 MW to the national grid. Kurram Tangi Dam Project, being constructed in North Waziristan, will be implemented in two phases.

Water and energy experts said the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s intervention at this critical juncture for timely and urgent commencement of Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam projects is a turning point in our water history wherein equally focused and committed federal government support is the dawn of a new era.

They said Diamer–Bhasha Dam site was located across Indus River Near Chilas (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa & Gilgit- Baltistan), 315 km u/s from Tarbela Dam and about 40 Km downstream of Chilas.

The dam of 272-meter height will provide a reservoir with live storage of 6.4 MAF water, which will be utilised for supplementing the irrigation water to Indus Basin and hydropower generation of 18,097 GWh per annum with the help of hydropower plant with installed capacity of 4500 MW.

They said Mohmand Dam site is proposed to be constructed on Swat River about 5 km upstream (u/s) of Munda Head Works in tribal district, Mohmand of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The dam of 213-meter height will provide a reservoir with live storage of 0.676 MAF which will be utilized for irrigation of new command area of 16,737 acres, water supply to Peshawar, hydropower generation of 2,864 GWh per annum with installed capacity of 800 MW besides mitigating floods in Peshawar valley.

Energy experts said the major factor contributing to the widening electricity demand-supply gap was the delay in the completion of various hydropower projects undertaken by the Wapda.

The sustainable development projects, if completed timely, could directly address the prevalent energy crisis and also result in reducing the average generation cost of the energy mix. The typical example of inordinate delay was that of the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project, which was conceived decades ago for fast-track implementation, but its construction contract was awarded in 2007. It was to achieve commercial operations within five years, but the completion date was revised a number of times due to multiple reasons.

Similarly, the Golen Gol project of 106MW was scheduled for commissioning in 2009, but completed after a long delay. The Keyal Khwar hydropower project of 122MW has already been delayed by more than a decade, and no construction was started yet though its civil works contract was given in 2014.

Other accomplished hydropower projects that suffered long delays in the past included Jinnah (96MW), Duber Khwar (130MW), Allai Khwar (121MW), Khan Khwar (72MW) and Satpara (0.05MAF). The Jinnah project in Mianwali district was planned for construction in 2006, with a completion deadline of four years, but it was commissioned in September 2013.

Experts said Pakistani engineers with support of international experts, soon after the independence of the country, achieved the marvels of two largest dams of that time, five barrages, seven link canals and second largest grid station of Asia after Japan.

They said Pakistan has been degraded from water abundant country to scarce country in view of massive population growth, insufficient water storage and poor management mechanism.

They said minimum storage of fresh water of only ten percent of 145 MAF and only 30 days’ carryover capacity much lower than the world average makes it a water insecure country. They said groundwater is now being overexploited in many areas and quality is deteriorating, which is leading to a large percentage of salt water.

They observed large part of Pakistan has good soil, abundant sunshine and able farmers yet crop yields are much lower. The quality of water service and irrigation practices play major role, this must improve phenomenally.