SWABI, Feb 18: The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and the Italian construction firm will hold crucial talks on Tuesday about resumption of work on Ghazi Barotha Hydel Power Project, an official told Dawn here on Sunday.

The official said that despite the warning from Wapda, the Italian company had failed to resume work on the scheme till Feb 14.

“The government had told the firm to either fulfil its obligations or face legal action. This issue had already been discussed by the officials of the two countries on a number of occasions, but they failed to strike a workable formula,” he added.

The firm had stopped work on the project just before the start of US-led air strikes on Afghanistan, citing security reasons. But, after the establishment of interim government in Kabul, there was no justification to further delay the construction of the vital project, he said and added that the scheme was costing $1 million per day to the government. The total loss had already reached to over $110 million, he said.

According to insiders, the Italian firm had demanded an increase in the construction rate and payment for the delaying of the construction. However, the firm could not resume work on the project as it could not get the property in time from the owners, which was the responsibility of Wapda, they added.

The source said the Wapda authorities had refused to accept the demands, and called for immediate resumption of work as the government wanted to expedite work on the project.

He said it seemed as if the construction of Ghazi Barotha Project would resume in early March if ‘the Tuesday talks’ produced positive results, which according to most of the experts might be the last chance for the two parties to settle their dispute.

In the meanwhile, Awami Labour Union Chairman Ashfaq Ahmad said that when the firm stopped work on the project in the end of September last, they concluded an agreement that all the employees would be recalled whenever work on the project resumed.

He said contractors of the project were bound to give priority to the old employees, and if they failed to do so a court of law in this regard. “They had made a pledge with us that all the employees would be recalled when the work resumed.”

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