ISLAMABAD - The Planning Commission yesterday issued authorisation for carrying out detailed engineering design study of 740MW Munda dam and asked the Ministry of Water and Power to impose penalty on the consultant for conducting faulty study and delaying the project.

At a meeting held in the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, earlier this month, it was decided to issue the authorisation of Rs 938 million for the detailed engineering design study of the Munda dam project, sources said. The authorisation has been issued now, the sources added.

The meeting was chaired by Federal Planning, Development and Reforms Minister Ahsan Iqbal and attended by Wapda Chairman Zafar Mehmood, the water and power secretary and officials of the Planning Commission.

Ahsan Iqbal asked the Ministry of Water and Power to take punitive action against those responsible for conducting flawed engineering study of the dam. Ahsan Iqbal said the faulty underestimation of Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) of the Munda Dam, by the consultant, would result in tragedy and asked the minister of water and Power to fine the consultant equal to the cost of the relevant component.

Feasibility study of the project was completed in 2000 by a consortium led by Nippon Koei Inc. and financed by JICA, while contract for the detailed engineering design study (DEDS), was awarded to a consortium led by Australian consultant, SMEC, in June 2012.

The Australian company, SMEC, conducted the detailed survey of Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) of the Munda Dam, but the study was rejected by the Planning Commission and EU, saying it had underestimated the flood water in the reservoir. The European Union rejected the design of the project on the grounds that in the event of 30 percent more flooding compared to the floods of 2010, the structure of the dam would be impacted.

The SMEC study estimated the flow of 817,000 cusecs of water in the dam while actually the flow of 967,000 cusecs water will touch the dam during the flood season, the sources asserted. The SMEC study could endanger the lives and property of millions of people in the area, they added.

The award of the contract without approval by Wapda, irregular expenditures and other audit objections were also discussed at the meeting, the sources maintained. “The Wapda chairman suggested to focus on PMF only as the other issues would be dealt with by the Ministry of Water and Power and Wapda on their own,” they revealed.

The water and power secretary also assured the Ministry of Planning of recovering appropriate amount from the consultants as penalty and the ministry would certify technical soundness of design parameters, the sources maintained.

The CDWP, at its meeting in March 2014, had approved the construction of Munda dam in principle. Munda dam is a proposed multi-purpose concrete-faced rock-filled dam located at the Swat River, approximately 37km north of Peshawar and 5km upstream of Munda Headworks in Mohmand Agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Munda dam will store 1.29 million acres feet (MAF) of water for irrigationa and generate 740MW of electricity, contributing about 2.4 billion units to the national grid every year. The total benefits of the project have been estimated at Rs 20.2 billion per annum.

The estimated cost of the project is $1.4 billion to be financed by the European Union (EU), however, no final agreement has been signed so far and it is alleged the government is showing more interest in projects of political gains.

PC-II for detailed engineering design and document was approved by the CDWP in August 2001, but approved by the Planning Commission after 14 years.