ISLAMABAD: A tripartite agreement was signed between a Chinese company and the governments of Pakistan and China on Thursday for construction of a 1,124-megawatt hydropower project at Kohala on the Jhelum river at a cost of $2.4 billion.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who witnessed the signing ceremony at his office, termed the agreement “the country’s biggest-ever foreign investment”. Azad Kashmir’s prime minister was also present on the occasion.
The accord represents the largest power sector investment by an independent power producer (IPP).
Speaking on the occasion, the prime minister said the government had resolved to focus on a “green and clean power generation” through hydroelectricity in order to reduce dependence on imported fuel.
Mr Khan said the government welcomed the investment as it could set a precedent for the country to move towards sources of clean energy.
The event was witnessed, among others, by federal cabinet members, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, CPEC Authority Chairman retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa and representatives of China’s Three Gorges company.
The project, a part of CPEC, has been awarded to Kohala Hydropower Company (KHCL), which is a subsidiary of China’s Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC).
The prime minister said Pakistan should have invested in the hydropower sector decades ago. “The country was making good progress when it was producing hydropower, but then it started banking on imported fuel. This made not only the local industry non-competitive, but also put an additional burden on foreign reserves.”
Electricity generation through imported fuel, he said, had adversely affected the environment as Pakistan was placed by experts on a list of nine states most likely to be badly affected by climate change.
The prime minister told Raja Farooq Haider, the AJK Prime Minister, that the project would create much-needed jobs both during the construction as well as the operation phases.
‘Next month is decisive’
At another function, the prime minister spoke to volunteers of the Corona Tiger Force and warned that July would be decisive in the fight against coronavirus.
“If we are able to persuade people to adopt precautionary measures, the peak of the disease will pass and the country will start getting back to normality,” the prime minister said.
He urged the Tiger Force to utilise “your energies to spread awareness about the deadly virus”.
Mr Khan called upon the nation to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) strictly.
He said it was essential to make the masses understand the importance of following precautionary measures. “If people do not follow the SOPs, it will multiply the burden on hospitals and existing health facilities.”
The prime minister said it was painful to see people making a mockery of precautionary measures vital to keeping Covid-19 in check.
He, however, reiterated that the intensity of the pandemic was not as severe in Pakistan as it was in some other countries, e.g. the United States and European nations. “The administration is already stretched to its limits and the government does not want to put an additional burden on them. Therefore, the role of volunteers has become decisive.”
Prime Minister Khan praised the missionary zeal of volunteers working for the Corona Relief Tiger Force, saying the youth were the country’s future.
He said the Tiger Force would be used for the billion tree tsunami programme after the Covid-19 crisis was over.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020