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Work on 128MW hydropower project yet to begin

LAHORE: The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has so far failed to get civil work initiated on the 128MW Keyal Khwar hydropower project (KKHP) despite paying 50 per cent of the mobilisation advance to the contractor about two years ago.

The project, scheduled for completion next year as per the original plan, got attention of the authority after the Prime Minister’s Office sought report on delayed hydropower projects, forcing senior officials to quickly issue commencement order to the contractor last month to mobilise machinery, equipment, labour, etc, on the site.

The project is now expected to be completed in January 2020 and its cost has increased more than four times the original PC-1 cost. The project — a concrete gravity dam — is located along Keyal Khwar, a right bank tributary of the Indus in Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. M/S Lahmeyer International — the lead partner of a joint venture — has been appointed as consultant of the project.

A senior Wapda official, however, claimed that the project was delayed because local people had stopped Chinese engineers from entering the site till the construction of a grid station for smooth supply of electricity to them.

“The project was delayed due to locals and not us as they wanted work on installation of a 132kV grid station to go ahead simultaneously with the construction of KKHP,” Wapda’s member (water) Eng Mohammad Shoaib Iqbal told Dawn.

But an official source blames incompetence and negligence on the part of senior officials for the delay, questioning why they had failed when everything (land acquisition, mobilisation advance, preparatory works, etc) had been completed two years ago.

“The project’s detailed design was ready in 2010 while the process for prequalification of contractors and tendering commenced in 2011. Similarly, construction of a staff colony and camp offices was launched and simultaneously completed about three years earlier,” says an official.

He said the contractors — M/s Sinohydro-Hajvairy JV (civil works) and M/s Sarwar & Company Private Limited (powerhouse ventilation tunnel exploratory audit) — were selected through a bidding process in 2012. However, agreements for the project between the government and the contractors were signed in 2014 after Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau Bank (Germany) and the European Investment Bank pledged to fund the project in association with the federal government.

The official said the process of land acquisition for the project’s power house had been completed in 2011, but the failure to start civil work was a question mark on those entrusted with the task of completing power projects on a fast track.

He feared that the delay might provide an opportunity to the contractor to charge escalation cost, besides revision of the project cost. “The contractor may demand payment of escalation cost worth millions of rupees on the pretext of completing the preparatory arrangements related to deployment of labour, manpower, vehicles, etc,” the official said, adding that appeared to be a win-win situation for the contractor.

Wapda member Shoaib Iqbal admitted that it was true that the mobilisation advance to the contractor had been paid two years ago. “But it is also true that the problem doesn’t exist on our part. Actually it was difficult to fulfil the locals’ demand for constructing the grid station since it doesn’t come under our purview,” he said. “Therefore, we requested Pesco to fulfil the public demand, but it couldn’t do so. And finally, the cost of the grid station was also included in the revised cost estimate for the KKHP.”

He said Wapda had taken up the issue with the federal government and informed it that a local MNA was behind the protests in Pattan and Bisham. On the other hand, he added, the lead partner of joint venture, Sinohydro-Hajvairy, had some problem with its JB partner — Ms Hajvairy. But this issue has also been resolved.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2016

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