One of the largest hydroelectric power stations in Pakistan, built by a Chinese company on the Neelam River, has come to a halt due to a geological fault deep in the tunnel that leads water from the river to the power station.
With the shutdown of a 969 MW power plant, Pakistan is facing a total power shortage of 7,324 MW today. This shortage is likely to exacerbate the power situation for people facing power cuts from 12 to 16 hours in major cities like Karachi and Lahore.
The government has already declared a ‘power shortage’ with the possibility to save power by turning off internet and mobile connections. Markets and offices are closing early and public transport systems are facing the worst shutdown ever.
The acute crisis of power has compounded the woes of the incumbent government of Shehbaz Sharif, beset with political setbacks, economic collapse and a divided army. Repairs to the Neelam-Jhelum hydroelectric plant are likely to take more than six months, forcing the country to seek additional power from other scarce sources.
Prime Minister Sharif was informed in April of this year that 27 plants with a combined generation capacity of more than 7,000 megawatts were out of service due to technical failures or fuel shortages.
The closure of the Neelum-Jhelum factory, built at a cost of Rs 508 billion in 2018 after much time and expense, has made matters worse. While the exact cause of the problem is not yet known, it is believed that a 3.5 km tunnel has been blocked.
The tunnel is used to pump water from the river to the power plant to generate electricity. The water is then pumped into the tunnel to flow back to the river. The problem is in the tunnel that leads the water from the power plant to the river.
The 58-kilometer tunnel and its length is one of the key features of the plan, built by the Chinese contractor CGGC-CMEC (Gezhouba Group).
The Pakistani water authority WAPDA has engaged the same Chinese company to identify and clear the blockage. The authority has also sought advice from the American company Stantec. Two years ago, the Chinese company picked up another factory project on the Swat River in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa worth $1.9 billion.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)