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LAHORE: The Punjab government on Tuesday launched a probe into the collapse of structure of recently completed 4.8MW hydropower project at the Upper Chenab Canal in Sheikhupura district. The project is being executed by Chinese firm under supervision of the energy department.

Officials say the inquiry team has been tasked with looking into all aspects of the construction work.

“A five-member inquiry team has been constituted by the chief minister. The team will submit its preliminary report to the CM within next three days,” a senior irrigation department official told Dawn on Tuesday. He said the collapse had caused closure of the Upper Chenab Canal and its linking canals falling within Mangatawala canal system.

“Since the occurrence of the incident on Saturday, the UCC and other link canals are closed. The work on restoration of these canals is underway whereas the collapsed structure is still present in the UCC,” the official, who requested anonymity, added.

Govt has paid 80pc cost to Chinese contractor before test run

The entire structure of the 4.8MW hydropower project had collapsed on Saturday, suspending supply of irrigation water to huge chunks of agriculture land in several areas. The civil work of the project was recently accomplished by the firm which was also working on a couple of more such projects in Punjab.

Another irrigation department official said the firm was an engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contractor and was awarded contract by the energy department.

“The test run of the project was also expected to start in the coming days. And collapse of its structure a couple of days before is very serious matter and the government must probe the issue in depth,” the official said.

The project is being executed at the Upper Chenab Canal between Kot Abdul Malik and Sheikhupura (Chianwali). The entire structure sunk into the canal after the collapse.

“The structure has completely sunk into the canal which shows that it was poorly designed and constructed. Its finishing work was also very poor and anyone could easily see it with the naked eye,” the official told Dawn.

He further said the Chinese firm had already been paid about 80pc of the total project’s cost in the form of running payments/bills it submitted to the authorities. Due to the structure collapse, the irrigation department is facing difficulty in restoring the routine flow of the 4,000 cusec of the Upper Chenab Canal and 600 cusec of link canals of Mangatawala canal system. The irrigation water supply to the agriculture land of Nankana, Sheikhupura and other districts has been cut off.

When contacted, Energy Department Secretary Asad Gilani said the incident was being probed.

“The firm, whom the department awarded the project, is an EPC contractor and it is responsible to build the project under the agreement,” he added.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2017