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LAHORE: The 878km-long route of the Matiari-Lahore transmission line project is being realigned after the military objected to it and insisted that the line be built at least 30km away from the cantonment and its border areas in Bahawalpur.

Following the military’s concern, the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), a subsidiary of the Ministry of Water and Power, and the China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Company Ltd (CET) — the firm executing the $1.6 billion project — have started conducting a detailed route survey keeping in view its realignment, under the guidance of military officials.

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

Realignment may lead to 10pc increase in project’s cost

According to a preliminary survey, the transmission line will be built from Matiari (Hyderabad) to Balloki (near Bhaipheru and Lahore), and will pass through Ghotki, Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur. The cost of the project may increase by up to 10 per cent if the route is realigned after the detailed survey.

“The route’s survey conducted previously was only a preliminary one and now the Chinese firm is conducting a detailed survey of the route for acquisition of land with a special focus on realigning the line 30km away from sensitive areas of the military, in light of fresh directions we have received,” an official of the water and power ministry explained.

“The line was previously supposed to pass near an army training camp and other sensitive areas, but the military raised objections...since the project and military areas both are strategically important,” the official, requesting anonymity, added.

He said that soon after receiving the objections, officials of the water and power ministry and the NTDC held meetings with military officials and eventually decided to change the route. They also decided that military officials would guide the survey teams comprising Chinese and NTDC engineers while finalising the new route, especially near Bahawalpur.

“Revisions or amendments to the route will not, hopefully, increase the 868km planned length of the project. If it does increase, the project’s cost could go up by five to 10pc of the total cost. The Chinese contractor will bear the increased cost under the agreement,” the official maintained.

Another senior official of the ministry confirmed the development, saying the work on realigning the route was under way. “It was necessary to amend the route keeping in view the input from the quarters concerned.”

Land acquisition for the transmission line in various districts of Sindh and Balochistan would commence soon after finalising the realignment of the project route.

The government has already handed over possession of two tracts of land to the Chinese company to start construction of converter stations for the 660kV high voltage direct current transmission line. The control of the pieces of land measuring 175 acres (each) was given to CET, a company owned by the State Grid Corporation of China, in January this year after the NTDC acquired the land from private owners. One tract is located near Balloki, about 50km from Lahore, while the other in Matiari, near Hyderabad, Sindh.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2017