Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project - an environmental disaster

June 28th, 2010 - 2:50 pm ICT by ANI  

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

London, June 28 (ANI): Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is located near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. It aims to dig a tunnel and divert water of Neelam River from Nauseri, about 41 KM East of Muzaffarabad.

A powerhouse will be constructed at Chatter Kalas, 22 Km South of Muzaffarabad; and after passing through the turbines the water will be released in Jhelum River, about four Km South of Chatter Kalas.Once completed, the Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project will produce 969 MW of electricity annually at the cost of US 2.16 billion dollars. This hydroelectric project was formally announced by former Minister Omar Ayub on June 10, 2007. WAPDA selected MWH, a global provider of environmental engineering, strategic consulting and construction services, to provide engineering and construction management services for the Neelam-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project. It is a joint venture led by MWH and consisting of MWH, Pakistani firms NESPAK, ACE and NDC, and Norwegian firm NORPLAN. The MWH will provide design, make construction drawing preparation and management construction services; and the project will be completed within eight years. A concrete gravity dam 135 m long and 47 m high will be constructed on Neelam River at Nauseri. The dam is designed for over-topping. The dam will create a head pond of eight million cubic meters, which will allow a peaking reservoir of 2.08 million cubic meters to meet daily peaking of power for more than four hours.A six gate tunnel intake structure of 280 cumec capacity will be connected with three conventional flushing surface basins installed at their end for taking sediment back into river.The total length of head race tunnel is 28.5 Km. A 15.1 Km stretch of the tunnel from the Nauseri be constructed as a twin tunnel system each with cross section of 42 Sq.m. The remaining head race tunnel down to the surge chamber will be a single tunnel having cross section of 82 Sq.m. The tunnels are shotcrete lined with a concrete invert.The tunnel crosses Jhelum River approximately 380 meters below its bed. The tunnel will be accessed by 7 Adits for removal of excavated spoil. The surge chamber consist of 340 m high riser shaft and 820 m long surge tunnel, four steel lined Penstock tunnels 150 m long and having 3.8 m internal diameter will also be constructed.The under ground power station will have four units with a total capacity of 969 MW. The power station will be connected with Rawat Grid station (in Pakistan) through 500KV double circuit transmission line.Overall project cost is estimated at Rs. 130 billion (US 2.16 billion dollars) and Installed capacity 969 MW four units @ 242 MW eachThe concrete gravity dam is expected to take eight years for completion. The construction contact was awarded, on July 7, 2007, to M/s CGGC-CMEC consortium China for implementation of the project at a cost of Rs. 90.90 billions.

Government of Pakistan has approved financial arrangement for the project and established Neelam Jhelum Hydropower Company for project implementation

Project envisages acquisition of approx, 2400 kanals of private and State land in the project Area in Muzaffarabad District. Like other projects conceived and completed by the WAPDA in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, this project is also designed to benefit Pakistan at the expense of the local people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir.

Although the work has already started on the project, but as yet there is no written agreement between WAPDA and government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. This shows what kind of role or influence government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir has over this matter; or any matter related to development, welfare of people and environment. Unlike WAPDA claims the project will not help the local people in any form or shape. The employment opportunities are for the people of Pakistan or foreign workers. So far only five jobs are given to the local people, which are: chefs, cleaners and watchmen.

Majority of population lives in rural areas and their existence and life largely depends upon forestry, livestock and agriculture.

River water and natural springs are main source for drinking and irrigation of land; and this diversion of river will have serious water shortage, which will make life miserable for the local people.

The project will have very serious impact on environment of the area, as it plays a key role in the configuration of Himalayan ecosystem. Environmental groups have expressed their concerns about prospective environmental hazards on local economy and biodiversity.Ecologists say the project area has significant conservational importance due to abundant of forests, aquatics life and presence of many species of wild life, which have been declared endangered globally.

The project will also have serious impact on the habitat of various rare species considered on the verge of extinction.

I will also have negative impact on the natural habitat of wildlife. Beauty of this area is enhanced by this river; and this diversion will have serious affect on wild life, weather and beauty of the area.The river and the beauty of the area attract tourists and provide clean water to the local people and citizens of Muzaffarabad; and this diversion of water will deprive the area of clean water and reduce the Neelam River to ‘Nalah Lahi’ in Rawalpindi which has dirty water and creates enormous problems for the citizens.

This project, once completed will benefit Pakistan, but local people will not benefit from it in any form or shape. There will be serious economic and environmental consequences for the local people; and their future generations will face very serious economic and environmental problems.Interestingly India also plans to build a dam on the Neelam River which is known as Kishen Ganga on the Indian side of the divide.

Indian plan is to divert water through a 21 KM long tunnel before it enters Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and release the water into Bonar Madumati Nullah - a tributary of the Jhelum River. The diverted water would be used for generating electricity and feeding the Wullar Lake in the process. In other words, after the completion of this project, the water of Neelam River or Kishen Ganga will join River Jhelum at Bandipore on the Indian side of LOC instead of its present convergence at Domel in Muzaffarabad, Pakistani Administered Kashmir.Pakistan has serious objections to this project, as they feel this project will reduce flow of water in the Neelam River when it enters Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and it will have severe impact on their project: Neelam-Jhelum Hydro Electric Project.The government of Pakistan wishes to resolve this issue bilaterally, but there is also talk of invoking the arbitration process enshrined in the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. (ANI)

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