During the past decade some serious questions have been raised regarding the capacity of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) to undertake mega hydel projects. The organisation was once the pride of the nation having built the likes of Tarbela and Mangla when projects of such scale were unheard of. However, following Zia-ul-Haq’s regime the institution fell into a state of mis-governance and ineptitude which continues to this day.
One of the major failures of WAPDA has been the 968MW Neelum-Jhelum hydro power plant on which construction began in 2008. The cost estimates for the project have quadrupled since 2002. The original projection was Rs84.5 billion which was subsequently revised to Rs277.5bn in 2012 to accommodate changes in design caused by the earthquake. The cost currently hovers around Rs500 billion with the primary component that has resulted in such massive cost escalation being the interest during construction (IDC) component.
In a recent briefing to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the Wapda Chairman said that the first unit of the project with a capacity to produce 240MW will start functioning in February 2018. He added that by March 31, 2018, all four units with the capacity to produce 240MW each will start power generation.
According to sources in the Planning Commission the project has been mismanaged from the start with the original financial targets and geographical surveys inaccurately conducted. Resultantly, the poor design had to be changed mid-way during construction and affected the dam and hydraulic structure as well as the tunneling process.
However, given the harsh terrain where the project is being built, there have also been natural calamities such as landslides and water flow seepages affecting tunnel construction.
In a bid to cover up its inefficiency the government imposed a 10 paisa per unit surcharge in 2007 which has since been extended in line with the massive cost escalation.
At the end of the day it is the general public which pays the cost of negligence on the part of institutions such as WAPDA.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily