National water policy awaits formal approval

Updated January 10, 2017


ISLAMABAD: The federal and provincial governments are on board over the country’s first national water policy which will now be sent to the Council of Common Interests for formal approval, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Mohammad Asif said on Monday.

He was speaking to journalists after announcing a $1.8bn financial close of the first hydropower project — the 870MW Suki Kinari project — under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.

The Chashma-3 nuclear power project was operational and the Chashma-4 project would follow by April, he said, adding that the government was on schedule to end loadshedding by 2018. Several thermal power projects, to be operated on re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG), were in their testing phase, he said and hoped that the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project would start generating electricity before the next monsoon season.

The government was making efforts to complete the conversion of Nandipur power project to natural gas by April, he said, adding that the power regulator had not yet issued the revised tariff for power generated through gas. If the tariff did not cover the cost, the matter would be sent to the federal cabinet for deliberation.

On schedule to end loadshedding in 2018, says Khawaja Asif

Responding to a question, he said they were yet to see a change in the stance of the power regulator after it was brought under the administrative control of his ministry last month.

The minister declined comment on the ongoing dispute over the construction of two hydropower projects by India in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty.

When asked about the difficulties the government has faced in raising funds for the construction of the $14bn Diamer-Bhasha dam, the minister said Pakistan did not consider the dam area a disputed territory and that its construction would start this year. Those who considered the territory disputed were free to not fund the project, he said, adding that many countries had expressed interest in financing for the Diamer-Bhasha Multipurpose project.

The project has been bifurcated in two — a water reservoir and a power house. Mr Asif said the reservoir would be financed through the country’s own resources while the power house would be funded through investors and financiers from abroad. Earlier, Mr Asif presided over a ceremony marking the financial close of the 870MW Suki Kinari hydropower project. The required documents were signed by Shah Jahan Mirza, managing director of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board, and Haseeb Khan, the chief executive officer of Suki Kinari hydropower project.

This is the first hydropower project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa being developed by the private sector and the largest independent hydropower project in the country so far. Construction activities at the site have begun and the project is expected to add 3,081GWh units of electricity each year to the national grid by 2022.

The KP government is estimated to receive around Rs1.3 billion each year as water use charges for 30 years. The project is being developed on a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) basis under the Power Policy 2002 and will be transferred to the province in 30 years.

The project is located on River Kunhar, a tributary of River Jhelum, in Mansehra district, the eastern part of KP between Naran and Paras towns. M/s Al-Jomaih Holding Com­pany, (LLC) (Saudi Arabia), China Gezhouba Group Company (China) and Haseeb Khan (Pvt) Ltd. (Pakis­tan) have sponsored the project.

It is being developed with an investment of $1.8bn through a debt-equity ratio of 75:25pv. The lenders for the project include the Export-Import Bank of China, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

Published in Dawn January 10th, 2017