ISLAMABAD - The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has issued No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the 1,410 megawatts Tarbela 5th Extension Hydropower Project.

A meeting to discuss the Water and Power Development Authority’s (WAPDA) request for granting NOC to the project was held here on Tuesday, which was presided over by the IRSA chairman.

Earlier in March, this year, as per the directive of the Economic Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), WAPDA had approached IRSA for the issuance of NOC, but IRSA asked it to provide the feasibility report first. IRSA further asked WAPDA to send the project experts, who would brief it about the project.

In Tuesday’s meeting, General Manager of the project informed the meeting that ECNEC had approved, in principle, the PC-I of the 1, 410 MWs Tarbela 5th Extension Hydropower Project, moved by the Ministry of Water and Power, at an updated cost of Rs81, 091 million.

The ECNEC also directed the sponsor of the project to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Indus River System Authority (IRSA).

The sponsor of the project was asked to rationalise cost of the project by reducing it by at least 10 percent, and a committee was also constituted for the purpose.

Now the cost has been cut down to Rs79578 million. On completion, the project would help generate electricity worth approximately $300 million.

Three additional power generating units would be installed at Tarbela reservoir in the existing tunnel five for the project, having the capacity of 470MWs each, without affecting the flow of water released for the irrigation purpose

IRSA is responsible for the control of water releases and maintaining the required water level in the Tarbela reservoir, as per the provinces’ share and requirements.

It is pertinent to mention here that work on the Tarbela fourth extension is already in progress and will be completed by summer 2017.

The risk related to the project is low and reward is high, which will add more than 1.8 billion units of cheap hydel electricity to the national grid per annum.

Tarbela 5th extension will be completed by 2021. Both 4th and 5th extension power projects will add 2,820 MWs to the national grid system.

However officials in IRSA and Planning Commission don’t have a very positive view of these projects, as they consider it a seasonal arrangement.

These officials confided to The Nation that both 4th and 5th extension are seasonal arrangements, and the turbines installed will be generating electricity in high flood seasons or when the provinces demand is around 100000 cusecs.

“The flood season lasts for a short period, while the provinces’ demand for irrigation water seldom touches the 100000 cusecs mark,” these officials added.

“You are spending a huge sum of Rs 160 billion on both 4th and 5th extension, but these will be generating electricity only for few months,” the officials contend.

However when contacted, WAPDA’s spokesman said that all the hydropower projects were subject to IRSA’s consent and dependent on the availability of water in the reservoirs and provincial requirements.