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Key plant will take six more months to repair, NA told

By Khaleeq Kiani 2022-11-15
ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Monday revealed that the Rs500 billion 969MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project, which faced a `massive structural damage of tunnel collapse` in July, would take at least six more months to be repaired.

`There are cracks inside the mountain...

This is a major damage,` Prime Minister`s Adviser on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira told the National Assembly on Monday in the first official comment on the extent of damage caused to the main tunnel.

In reply to a supplementary question by Shagufta Jumani, Mr Kaira, who was responding on behalf of the minister for water resources, said the tender had been awarded to a Chinese firm for completion of repair works in six months, but there could be delays as damage on the site was found to be greater than assessed earlier.

He explained that since the 51km tunnel in Azad Kashmir was under peculiar growing mountains, and not solid rock structure, companies were not ready to participate in the tender to go inside.

He did not respond to the question whether or not repair works were guaranteed under the original contract and if the government would have to bear the additional costs.

In a written reply, the ministry of water resources said that a fault had developed in the Neelum-Jhelum plant on July 4 this year, leaving the powerhouse dysfunctional.

The project was commissioned in 2018 and had since been working satisfactorily with power generation of 18.28 billion units.

However, on July 4, when the plant was running at its full capacity (969MW), an abnormal increase in water leakage was observed which was controlled through continuous drainage pumps and an investigation into the excessive leakage was started.

On July 5, an emergency meeting was held between the project management and the project consultants team to analyse the situation and determine the root cause of excessive water leakage. It was observed that tailrace tunnelhad obtained an abnormal pressure of 616m instead of the normal 600m. It was also pointed out by the projectconsultants that abnormal pressure of 616m in the TRT (tailrace tunnel) had been recorded which otherwise remained below 600 meter.

Accordingly, to ascertain behaviour of TRT, one unit was shut down which resulted in decrease in pressure to 608m. The consultants recommended that TRT pressure should be below 604m. In this way, load was reduced gradually.

On July 6, it was determined that the abnormal increase in pressure and water leakages/seepage was due to blockage in TRT and considering the safety of the structure and all other equipment, the power house was shut down on July 6.

Soon afterwards and after necessary preparation (lowering of bulkhead gates by Mobile Crane, functional check of dewatering pumps etc.), dewatering was started on July 10. After completion of dewatering up to the main collapse point (293m), an inspection of the tunnel was carried out.

`It was found that tunnel is fully blocked in 42m portion (between 251m and 293m) besides other damages,` a report said.

On submission of the report to the PM Office, a meeting was held on July 13 in which the prime minister instructed the ministry to engage an international-level foreign consulting firm for ascertaining the causes of the defect and seeking advice on the remedial works.

A detailed ToR for consulting firms were issued by the PM Office which were later finalised by the inter-ministerial committee at a meeting held on July 26.

Immediately after the incident, M/s China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC), the contractor for construction of civil works, was engaged for carrying out repairs. The contractor started mobilisation at the site and subsequently a contract agreement was signed with the firm on Aug 25. Work on the restoration of plant is going on day and night, the report added.

According to the report, 17 consulting firms were contacted. Since the task to ascertain the causes of the fault was urgently needed almost all the firms expressed their unwillingness for undertaking the services on such a short notice.

The ministerial committee was requested toengage the IndependentPanelofExperts (IPoEs) instead of engaging the consulting firms, which was accordingly approved by the inter-ministerial committee on Aug 25.

An agreement with five members of IPoEs has been signed and they are already on site, the reportconcluded.