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LAHORE: The government has handed over the possession of two chunks of land to a Chinese company for launching the construction of converter stations of $1.57 billion Matiari-Lahore 660kV High Voltage Direct Current transmission line.

The control of the pieces of land measuring 175 acres (each) was given to the China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Company Ltd (CET), a company owned by the State Grid Corporation of China, in recent days after the National Transmission Dispatch Company Limited (NTDCL) acquired these pieces of land from landowners.

One piece of land is situated near Balloki, Bhaipheru, (about 50km from Lahore) while the other is located within the jurisdiction of Matiari, a small town in Hyderabad district.

Converter stations for $1.57bn transmission line to be built near Balloki, Matiari

The Matiari-Lahore transmission line, a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is the country’s first mega project of its kind based on the DC (direct current). The line will have a capacity of transmitting about 4,000MW.

The government is likely to inaugurate the project’s civil work in March this year, as the preparatory work on the part of the contractor, CET, and the client, NTDCL is under way these days.

“We have completed the land acquisition for two mega converter stations of the project that will be built near Balloki (Bhaipheru, Lahore). And we have also handed over control of the Lahore land to the Chinese firm. The possession of land in Hyderabad is under way these days, as it is likely to be completed soon,” an official of the ministry of water and power said.

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, the official said that the transmission line would have sufficient capacity of evacuating power generation by four coal-fired power projects/plants (1,300MW each) and the other in Sindh in future.

The convertor station to be built in Hyderabad will convert the alternate current (AC), received from the plants in AC mode, into DC (direct current) for the onward transmission in the same mode through the line.

The Lahore convertor station would receive the electricity in DC and then convert it into AC for its onward supply to consumers through other AC lines of 500kV and 220kV maintained by the NTDCL and 132kV operated by respective distribution companies (Discos), including Lesco, Fesco, Gepco and Iesco.

The official said that since agreements between Pakistan and China had almost finalised in the wake of respective memorandums of understandings, the land acquisition for passing of the transmission line through various areas on the way — such as Hyderabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Hasilpur, Vehari, Sahiwal, Kasur and Lahore — would start soon.

“This project will be completed on a fast track basis. And initiation of civil work of the two convertor stations in the days to come hints that the project will be completed in October, 2019, as per deadline,” the official claimed.

Talking about the transmission tariff, the official said that after detailed deliberations held between the Chinese company and the NTDCL, rupee 0.74 per unit had been finalised.

Under the agreement, the company would execute the project on BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) basis. After operating the project (AC-DC-AC conversion etc) for 25 years and the recovery of the total cost, the contractor would hand over the project to the government.

However, the task of the line’s operation and maintenance would be the NTDCL’s responsibility.

“The contractor, under the agreement, is liable to pay lease/rent of the land to the government,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2017