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LAHORE: The groundbreaking for the 780-kilometre long portion of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) Pipeline has been put on hold for the next couple of months, delaying initiation of civil work that was earlier planned to be done in December last year.

It has been delayed in view of the sitting government’s five-year term ending on May 31 since those closely associated with the project want to get this job done preferably during the tenure of interim government, according to a senior official of Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS), a subsidiary of the Ministry of Energy (Power Division).

“We wanted groundbreaking of our portion to be held in the ongoing month as Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi too was interested to do so. But later we thought to postpone or put it on hold for some time and get this performed during the interim government setup,” the ISGC’s official told Dawn on Friday.

“We are just doing this to avoid any perception or impression that the government did this during last days of its tenure,” the official, who requested anonymity, added.

The groundbreaking and civil work on the project (780km-long Pakistan’s portion) was earlier expected to begin in December last year. The then petroleum minister Abbasi had also told Dawn about this schedule in February last year. However, the work couldn’t begin due to various factors including non-completion of some preparatory works — route, geo-technical, radar survey etc. On the other hand, Afghanistan carried out the project’s groundbreaking and initiated civil work about two months before.

“We are not late, as we have almost completed geo-technical report, radar and aerial topographic surveys etc. The contractor and the project experts have already been mobilised to the groundbreaking sites (Chaman and Quetta) in Balochistan and are busy in carrying out various activities,” he said. “We are completely ready for the groundbreaking and launching civil work on our side. There is no issue related to provision of funds for this project,” the source continued.

He said according to the actual schedule, commencement was supposed to be held in February or March leading to the launch of civil work in April this year. But keeping in view the sitting government’s tenure ending this month, it was decided to perform this job by end of June or mid July — the time when the caretaker government would be in place, he said.

At present, Afghanistan continues to build two compressor stations for the pipeline including one at Herat. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan is already on an advanced stage while various preparatory works related to India’s portion are also underway. Pakistan has also completed land acquisition for the 56-inch diameter Tapi gas pipeline.

The company would prefer to carryout groundbreaking and launch civil work on the project at a site in Quetta, he said.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018