The Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant is a run of the river hydroelectric power project, with a cost of 404.32 billion rupees. The project is designed to divert water from the Neelum River to a power station on the Jhelum River. The power station is located in Azad Kashmir, 22 kilo meter south of Muzaffarabad and will have an installed capacity of 969 Mega-Watts. Construction on the project began in 2008; a Chinese consortium was awarded the construction contract in July 2007. Recently Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated the first unit of Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project and affirmed this project as a symbol of Pakistan-China friendship. The project is a Joint Venture of five International and National firms known as the Neelum Jhelum Consultants (NJC). The NJC comprise of US-based Montgomery Watson Harza (USA), Norwegian company NORPLAN International, National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK), Associated Consulting Engineers (ACE), Pakistan and National Development Consultants Pakistan (NDC).
In addition to the construction of the hydro-power plant, an amount of Rs5, 237 million has been earmarked in 4th revised PC-I of NJHEP for the environmental mitigation measures in the project area.
NJHP (Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project) was initiated in 70s; however, after the long delays in initial approval of the project, the design was improved in 1989, increasing the tunnel length and generation capacity. The project was intended to begin in 2002 and be completed in 2008 but this time-frame experienced significant delays to rising costs and funding. Additionally, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which devastated the region required a redesign of the project to conform to more stringent seismic standards. Being dubbed as new wonder of Pakistan, the power project comprises three components including a dam, waterway system involving 52 kilometers long tunnels and an underground power house. The project will also help save huge amounts of money to the national kitty in foreign exchange on import of oil to the extent of hydel generation. It will reduce dependence on thermal power. During the construction, the project created 4,500 jobs besides leading to the socio-economic uplift of the area.
The Neelum–Jhelum Dam is a 47 m (154 ft) high and 125 m (410 ft) long gravity dam. The tunnel passes 380 m (1,247 ft) below the Jhelum River and through its bend. At the terminus of the tunnel, the water reaches the surge chamber which contains a 341 m (1,119 ft) tall surge shaft (to prevent water hammer) and 820 m (2,690 ft) long surge tunnel.
In the mid of 2014 former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the construction site and hoped to have at least one generator operational by mid 2015, but despite hard efforts it could not be done. The project was 66 percent completed as of August 2013 while at the same time the diversion tunnel was 75 percent completed. In December 2014 a wall near the diversion tunnel’s intake collapsed, killing four workers including a Chinese engineer. In November 2016, the project entered into terminal phase with 100 percent perfect design while achieving 85.5 percent progress.
The major project features include construction of concrete gravity 91 meters high dam with a crest length of 320 meters near the village of Gohra. The dam’s reservoir will be approximately 152 million cubic meters in volume, with a length of 27 kilometers. 72 homes and 58 businesses are expected to require relocation as a result of construction while 2.8 kilometers of the Karot-Kotli road, and 8.9 kilometers of the Azad Pattan-Kahuta road will need relocation. This project has started providing electricity on a trial basis. The first unit is contributing 60 megawatts to the national grid and will start generating electricity to its full capacity, 242 megawatts, in next two days. The project is being called an engineering marvel with 90% of the plant being underground in the high mountainous areas.
After the October 2005 earthquake, the seismic design parameters adopted for the tender design of the Project were thoroughly reviewed, and seismic design of the Project structures was appropriately revised to account for the following updated seismic parameters which also indicated that the seismic hazard for various parts of the Project is of different level. The updated seismic parameters adopted by project consultants are; FOR DAM SITE Opera-ting Basis Earthquake (OBE) 0.34 g peak ground acceleration Maximum Credible Earth-quake (MCE) 1.16 g peak ground acceleration FOR POWERHOUSE SITE Operating Basis Earthquake (OBE) 0.25 g peak ground acceleration Maximum Credible Earth-quake (MCE) 0.62 g peak ground acceleration FOR UNDERGROUND WORKS Operating Basis Earthquake (OBE) 0.17 g peak ground acceleration Martin Wieland (Member of Panel of Experts) ensured that “for Neelum-Jhelum Hydro-electric Project adequate estimates of seismic design parameters have been made which ensure that the project fully complies with today’s seismic safety standards for a hydropower plant in a highly seismic region. He further stated that, the prediction of strong earthquake, which would include time, magnitude and location, is still impossible and hardly any progress has been achieved within the last 40 years. Since it is not possible to accurately predict the time, magnitude and location of future earthquakes, but it has been ensured by experts that the revised design of project is based on the seismic parameters, which are as per world-wide standards, can sustain high intensity seismic activity in the project area. The Neelum-Jhelum Project is one of the major projects planned by the government of Pakistan to enhance its hydropower development to meet the growing energy needs of the country.
Prime Minister Abbasi while inaugurating the project said, “Only 10 per cent work was done when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decided to complete it. If we have succeeded it is due to his vision and efforts”. Chief of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), Muzammil Hussain, said that the NJHPP was conceived some three decades ago but the work was started only after it became evident that India was planning to build Kishanganga project.
The Indus Water Treaty, painfully ratified in 1960 under the auspices of the World Bank, theoretically regulates water allocation between the countries and is considered a rare diplomatic success story amid a bitter history.
Writer is Staff Reporter Melange for Europe & Coordinator Center of Pakistan & International Relations (COPAIR)