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LAHORE: A senior official of the Ministry of Energy (Power Division) has said work on the Lahore-Matiari High Voltage Direct Current Transmission Line must be resumed considering its importance for being part of the CPEC.

Lengthy procedures and slow pace on the part of departments concerned to resolve pending matters were said to be the reason behind a Chinese company’s decision to stop work on the transmission line.

“Since this project is critically important to evacuate power from south to north Pakistan, we believe the company should not have stopped work; the government is doing its best to resolve issues,” Federal Secretary for Power Division Yousuf Naseem Khokhar told Dawn on Tuesday.

“There are some issues due to which the company stopped work. But we have told the Chinese to resume, as the government will resolve their issues,” he added.

During the 5th meeting of the Joint Energy Working Group on Monday, the Chinese workers were also asked to hold a meeting with the respective quarters to resolve matters. “Talks with the Chinese are under way and we hope they will soon resume work,” Mr Khokhar claimed.

According to documents, issues between the company and the government are not new, as some emerged in August last year on operational and management (O&M) cost of the project determined by Nepra.

“The total annual O&M cost of the project was approved as $41.90m. The project sponsor (CET) considers that the O&M cost for convertor stations and transmission line are not consistent with the project EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) cost approved by Nepra. The project company firmly believes that the cost is not enough to carry out the O&M for convertor stations and to supply spare parts for the transmission line and wanted to approach Nepra for review of the same,” reads a letter Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB) Managing Director Shah Jahan Mirza wrote to Nepra in March.

“The NTDC agreed to provide $3m from its own O&M share of $16.78m to the project company,” explains the letter.

Nepra in its reply of April 10 to PPIB did not entertain the request made by the board. “The O&M cost stands deliberated and addressed in detail in the original tariff of Aug 18, 2016. Subsequently, the review motion dated Nov 24, 2016 has also reviewed and addressed the issue again with clarity. The instant PPIB request doesn’t merit further consideration by the authority,” reads the reply.

Talking to Dawn, an official source said when the NTDC was ready to give $3 million from its own O&M cost share to the Chinese company, why did Nepra not allow this in the interest of the country? “These are the issues that are yet to be resolved. And if the same situation continues, the project may face a massive delay,” the official, who requested anonymity, warned.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2017