As the estimated cost of 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project surged to $4.21 billion, the government has decided to re-negotiate with Islamic Development Bank and Exim Bank China for the speeding up the funding for the project.

Sources informed The Nation that government is facing acute shortage of finances for the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, which cost is sharply increasing. The project cost has reached to $4.21 billion, which was earlier revised to $2.74 billion from the original cost of $1.8 billion.

Sources further informed that major lenders of the projects including Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Saudi Fund for Development, OPEC Development Fund and Kuwait Fund for Development had reportedly refuses to provide further assistance for the project keeping in view its soaring cost. The lenders had provided only $260 million out of pledged amount of $692 million.

Therefore, a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday decided to re-engage Islamic Development Bank and Exim Bank China for the speeding up the funding for the project. The government wants to complete the project by 2016. However, the project could be extended due to the financial constraints. The prime minister asked the management of Neelum-Jhelum to complete the project by the first quarter of 2017.

General (Retd) Mohammad Zubair, the head of the technical team on the Neelum Jehlum Hydro project said that according to the most recent report from his team the progress of work has reached 72pc in the tenure of the present government and it will be completed with utmost efficiency. Chairman Wapda said that 70pc of the issues of the project have been resolved so far and it is making speedy progress as compared to the past.

Finance Minister said on the occasion that completion of the valuable hydropower projects are the first priority of the Government as they are vital for the development of the country. The cost of the Neelum Jehlum hydropower project has increased due to delays in the execution of the project because of the changes in the original design after 2005 earthquake and the resultant escalation in the scope of work but it is our firm commitment that now the project will be taken up on priority basis and all international donors and lenders will be re-engaged in the process of expediting the release of funds for this project and for achieving this objective we will try to satisfy them on all their concerns. The Finance Minister directed the team involved in the completion of the Neelum Jehlum Hydro power project to work in close coordination and sum up their numbers.

Khawaja M. Asif the Federal Minister for Water and Power, who was also present in the meeting, said that we will also consider making of a supervisory committee to ensure the efficient execution of the project.

Chairman Wapda Zafar Mehmood gave a presentation in detail on the Neelum Jehlum Hydropower Project and the progress made on the project so far.

The meeting was also participated by Secretary Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Mohammad Saleem Sethi, Abdul Sattar Jajja, CFO NJHPP and senior officials of the Ministries of W&P and Finance.