Rs.8 billion Tunnel Boring Machines for Neelum Jhelum Project to reach Pakistan by end of January

LAHORE: Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is deploying two state-of-the-art tunnel boring machines (TBMs) at a cost of Rs.8 billion on the strategically important 969 MW-Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project. This will reduce construction period of the project by about 18 months, resulting in an estimated benefit of Rs.60 billion. The two German-manufactured TBMs, being imported by the contractor, are expected to reach Pakistan by the end of this month.

WAPDA Chairman Shakil Durrani stated this while briefing the Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haq during their visit to various components of Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project including underground powerhouse, weir site, diversion tunnel, de-sander and main tunnels etc.

Federal Secretary Planning Asif Bajwa, AJK Chief Secretary Muhammad Shahzad Arbab, Planning Commission Member Energy Shahid Sattar, WAPDA Member (Water) Syed Raghib Abbas Shah, Member (Power) Muhammad Qasim Khan and senior officers concerned were also present during the visit.

Speaking on the occasion, WAPDA Chairman said that Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project, scheduled to be completed in 2016, will provide about 5.15 billion units of electricity annually to the National Grid. He further said that annual benefits of the project have been estimated at Rs.45 billion, adding that the project will pay back its cost in about 7 years.

Earlier, Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project Chief Executive Officer Lt. Gen. (Retd) Muhammad Zubair during the briefing said that overall progress on the project stands at 30%. Some 18.5-kilometer long tunnels have so far been excavated, while the crucial diversion tunnel to divert the river Neelum has also been completed in October last year in record time of two years. He said that construction work on all the three sites is in full swing. He added that work on powerhouse is heading as per schedule, while work on transformer hall is ahead of schedule. He also explained the reasons behind cost escalation of the project.

Neelum Jhelum Consultants Project Manager Christian Groskoff, briefing the visitors said that redesigning of the project in the wake of devastating earthquake of 2005, delay in acquisition of land and unstable supply of electricity have been the major challenges for the project. Muzaffarabad Commissioner Zafar Khan assured the project authorities that the crucial piece of land measuring 16 *kanals* and 6 *marlas* will be handed over to WAPDA within a week.

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