Investigation Launched into Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project Issue

investigation launched into neelum jhelum hydropower project issue

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered an investigation into the recent technical problem that stopped power generation at the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP).

He visited Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and told officials at the project to find out what caused the issue quickly.

The inquiry began after the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) shut down the 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project on May 3 to check it.

The project had to be shut down because a month earlier, Wapda found a big problem that made the pressure in the project’s headrace tunnel change a lot.

This project had issues before. It was closed in July 2022 because its tailrace tunnel had big cracks. It took 13 months to fix it, and power generation restarted in August-September 2023. The project reached its maximum 969MW capacity on March 29, as confirmed by Wapda.

But within a week on April 3, the headrace tunnel lost pressure, and power generation dropped to about 400MW shortly after international contractors fixed the project because of debris or cracks in the tunnel.

The project’s authorities tried to fix it, but the problem was bigger than expected, though generation increased afterward.

The earlier repairs cost about Rs6bn, plus about Rs37 billion in energy loss during repairs, maintenance, and testing over the next 20 months. Wapda has asked for about Rs43 billion from insurance for the losses and has already had several important meetings about it.

The prime minister wasn’t happy that the inquiry into the recent issue hadn’t finished yet and asked for the report to be ready soon. He wanted the power generation to start again quickly after the repairs.

He said it was sad that $5 billion was spent on the project when it was supposed to cost only $40 million, but it still has technical problems.

The prime minister insisted that the inquiry should be done by experts not involved in designing or building the project. He also told Wapda and the NJHP Company to finish repairing the tunnel soon and start generating power again.

My Opinion: It’s concerning to see such technical issues arise repeatedly in major projects like the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project. The inquiry launched by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is a necessary step to understand what went wrong and to ensure that such problems don’t occur again in the future. It’s crucial for the government to prioritize the safety and efficiency of such projects, especially considering the significant investment involved. I hope that the findings of the inquiry lead to effective solutions and better management practices to prevent similar issues in the future.