LAHORE - WAPDA Chairman Syed Raghib Abbas Shah has reportedly again argued in a letter to the Federal Ministry of Water & Power that India could clinch the water rights of the Neelum River if the construction of the Neelum Jhelum project was slowed. A perfect example of the saying “You can fool some of the people sometimes but you cannot fool all the people all the time”. Chairman is still trying to hide the fact that India’s water rights for their Kishenganga Hydro Electric Project (KHEP) Project have been established & accepted by the International Court of Arbitration (ICA), The Hague through its “Partial Award” dated Feb 18, 2013. The first dispute issue of “water diversion” has been settled by the ICA who concurred with the Indian position that KHEP is a “Run-of-River” plant inline with Para 15, Annex D iii) of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. Accordingly India may divert water from the Kishenganga / Neelum River for power generation by the KHEP and may deliver the water released below the power station info the Bonar Nallah. The secondary issue of “minimum flow” in the Neelum River (for Neelum Valley’s ecology) will be “determined” by the Court in a final Award.

It has been crystal clear to many that the Neelum Jhelum HEP 969MW project (Annual Energy 5.15B Units as declared) with the longer funnel option involving drilling below the Jhelum River Upper-Stem has become a “lemon to be squeezed” by several quarters. In Kashmir the multi-laterals such as World Bank and ADB etc are not involved, hence ripe pickings are available. However we did not expect this monumental bluff to be carried this far. The concealment of the ICA Award of 18 Feb 2013 and talking of India clinching Water Rights (to expedite contract payments) is simply unforgiveable.

This project is emerging as the biggest financial & technical scam in sixty six years of the chequered history of Pakistan. Once the magnitude of the scam is understood it will become a commentary on the history of our state. It infect involves gross negligence by a series of governments and members of the engineering & hydrologic community. The Indus Waters Treaty of 19 Sep 1960 (IWT 1960) is a seriously flawed agreement. There is no exit strategy and Pakistan consistently fails to counter the Indian moves and now even falls prey to its domestic predators. Below is the factsheet of NJ HEP, AJK.

A. In chronological order the villains in this tragic scenario are firstly the Fifth Commissioner of Indus Waters Jamaat All Shah who headed the Pakistan Commission of Indus Waters (PCIW) from 1991 to 2011. His motives are unclear.

Secondly one Kamal Majidulla (reportedly a journalist) who has as adviser to the PM controlled all hydrology related issues at PCIW & IRSA including the ICA deliberations since May 2010. This illegally appointed czar of Pak hydrologic affairs is not qualified to deliberate on hydrology. He has kept a tight lid on the basic ICA Award of Feb 18, 2013.

Thirdly WAPDA Chairman Shakeel Durrani in the period 2007-2012 played second fiddle to his Member Water Syed Raghib Abbas Shah. Both were in perfect harmony on strategic issues; oppose KBK, keep DBD on the back-burner and push a few lucrative projects like NJ HEP which greatly pleased their respective political mentors.

Fourthly Syed Raghib Abbas Shah, after retirement was on an extension as Member Water. He was elevated against the rules in year 2012 as the Chairman WAPDA. He is a beneficiary of the NJ HEP project. A genuine race should have convinced the WAPDA bureaucracy to terminate the tunnel at the upper Jhelum limb & not use the Option-2 design having longer tunnels located below the Jhelum upper stem. Pakistan has lost the case as expected and India will now divert Neelum waters, creating an average flow reduction during October to March of +33pc & April to Sep of +11% with corresponding reduction in Electric Energy from NJ HEP. The power capacity also dependent on flow.

B.  False pretext of a race under the IWT-1960. NJ HER 969MW tunnel project with a head of 420m and a max discharge of 280m3/s was determined in 2008 at USD 1.4bn. Drill & Blast (D&B) was the agreed methodology of tunneling. Contrary to PCIW & WAPDA announcements there was no race between Indian & Pakistani projects on the Jhelum & its tributaries. WAPDA interpretation that whoever builds first will have perpetual rights over Neelum waters is not as agreed in the Indus Waters Treaty 1960. Pak side had been cleverly out-maneuvered by the Indians in key tenets. Let us simply analyze the Annexure D Para 15(iii) concerning the provision in IWT 1960 for Hydro-Electric power (generation) by India on the Western Rivers. Quote: “Where a Plant is located on a Tributary of The Jhelum on which Pakistan has any Agricultural Use or hydro-electric use, the water released below the Plant may be delivered, if necessary, into another Tributary but only to the extent that the then existing Agricultural use or hydro-electric use by Pakistan on the former Tributary would not be adversely affected”. Unquote. The phrase “the then” as appearing in Annex C, D & E of the IWT 1960 has been addressed in the 18 Feb 2013 Award. Due to this devious clause it was an uphill task. The Pak side could not prove their water rights once the Indian ICIW had announced their KHEP project in their letter of June 1994. There was never a race.

C. Will generate the most expensive hydropower energy in history. The revised feasibility by Norconsult I Norplan in 1996 (project Option-2) had the design option to go below the Jhelum upper limb & reach the Jhelum lower limb for a combined powerhouse of 969 MW. This increased the tunnel lengths nearly two times & the financial cost fourfold. Unacceptable for just a 400MW enhancement. Every opportunity has been taken to escalate the contract value. WAPDA management in 2010 decided to induct two Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs). Every TBM is designed for specific soil conditions. Approval was taken from an in-house WAPDA Consultant almost two years after signing of the main contract. Every recognized consultant had apprehensions about the squeezing factor of the pre dominant soft Q4 soil conditions and the 2.5km overburden at some stages of the tunnel infrastructure. The convergence factor also becomes higher when minor seismic events occur. These are regular events. TBMs will be clearly facing the prospect of being trapped up to 2.5km below the surface. Some more questions arise. What is the real contract escalation after these two TBMs are inducted and the contract basis changed? These expensive moles will only be deployed for +11km (8.5m dia) of the initial C-2 section (headrace twin tunnels). Full project tunneling +50km. There can be minimum coordination with ongoing “D&B” work for the balance works of NJ HER tunnel project. This +$5b project is not going to be completed by 2016.

Total cost will exceed $5b before calculating interest (during & after construction). If the original Option-i design had been followed the project could have been completed in about $1.1b by terminating the NJ tunnel at the Jhelum upper stem (before it meets the Neelum). The Option-i design head being 22Cm with a powerhouse reliable capacity of 550MW (having minimum hydraulic losses). The major technical pitfalls are:

1) The revised design (Option-2) by Norconsult I Norplan involves the unprecedented feature of tunneling deep below the main Jhelum River. This effort to get an additional 400 MW is clearly a very clever intrigue by the friends of India to make the project extraordinary expensive & difficult, It also ensured that Pakistan can never win the “imaginary race”. A strategic fault line in the PCIW I WAPDA’s hydrologic administration emerges.

2) The NJ HEP tunnels will be the deepest hydraulic tunnels in the world. The tunnel will have to be steel lined at great cost in the section below the upper Jhelum River but with no technical advantage. Due to hydraulic losses the 969MW rating will not be achieved even after spending +$5b; the realistic cost of the NJ HER. The Option-I can still be applied & the project built in two sections capable of generating +1500 MW.

3) There has been no detailed design study of the project (with or without TBM deployment) after the 08 October 2005 massive geological changes.

4) No Pakistani technicians & engineers are being trained at site. Where is the PEC?

Conclusion:

I. Final project cost will be +$5b. The original $1.4b was a bluff. Can anyone afford to spend $4b for an additional 400MW? Even this may not be achieved due to the enormous hydraulic losses. A terrible financial & technical scam.

II. The project under Option-2 must be suspended before several billion dollars are lost. The alternate is to execute in two stages as per Option-I concept of Dec 1987. The tunnels must be surfaced (day lighted) at the Upper Jhelum River. A power house of 550MW be established as per original feasibility within three years in about $1.1b without any dangerous & costly adventures. The Neelum waters will be adequately utilised for 550MW Power & transferred to the Jhelum. Later a second stage power house from Jhelum to Jhelum could be built including the diverted Neelum water delivered by the Indian Kishenganga lKHEP. The estimated cost of a 950MW second stage executed by WAPDA is $1.2b. The second stage is in fact a realigned Kohala HER which would use Jhelum waters from a higher limb to a lower limb. A new intake at the Jhelum upper stem will be required for the second stage. The powerhouse infrastructure available from the present work of NJ HER can be utilised for the second stage. The first stage 550MW can finally also attempt to circumvent the Muzaffarabad fault line by a careful selection of the upper stem powerhouse. Unfortunately & irretrievably the projects’ Neelum River intake infrastructure at Nauseri’s is on an active fault line /MBT. Something the consultants had denied before Oct 8, 2005. The first & second stage Run-of-River HERs can together generate +1500MW without expensive experiments.

III. Some political war chests depended on this project. On May 8, 2012 WAPDA declared at the Rak China Energy Forum at Islamabad (while pleading for additional financing) that the project status is 22% complete. This was a bluff. Today they claim +50pc completion which is another shameful bluff. WAPDA is using every channel to state that they will complete the project by 2016. Present WAPDA Chairman is desperate to award a +$250m Transmission Line Contract (from NJ HER to Gujranwala) on this plea. An offer lower by $ 75mn is being ignored because it involves an Iranian contractor. In fact Transmission Lines up to 500kV have been built in Pakistan by local manufacturers & contractors. Why accept a Buyer’s Credit when the line can be built in PKRs at around half of the bid cost? Let the nation win.

IV. WAPDA has to be made solvent. The nation has to bring WAPDA out of this impasse. NJ HER based on a longer tunnel option involves extreme incompetence & corruption which will jack final costs to +$5b. It should have been a smaller tunnel option HER even before the ICA Award of 18 Feb 2013. Now the attempt to create the world’s deepest hydraulic tunnels in the world by going below the Jhelum upper stem should be forthwith stopped. The tunnels be “day lighted” at the Jhelum upper stem & initially a 550MW powerhouse built. Let WAPDA save $4b and strengthen its Balance Sheet. It must finally provide the PCIW Secretariat 24/7 with greater technical depth. The nation must face the joint might of the Indian ICIW & the Indian ICID the later reputed to be the world’s greatest think tank in hydraulics. Blind obedience of consultants on strategic projects is a real shame for our engineers and hydrologists. When some of our own senior engineers & bureaucrats become part of the internal cancer then it is time to react with great force.

– Contributed by WRDC.