The Planning Commission, after three years of starting work, has finally decided to issue authorisation letter to an Australian firm, SMEC, for carrying out detailed engineering design study (DEDS) of 740 MW Munda Dam.

In a meeting between the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal, and Chairman Wapda, Zafar Mehmood, it was decided to grant conditional approval to the release of authorisation order for the detailed engineering design study (DEDS) of Munda dam and directed the Ministry of Water and Power to take punitive action against the officials of Wapda and SMEC responsible for conducting flawed engineering study of the dam, source told The Nation.

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 the Australian consultant SMEC, in June 2012. “It happens only in Pakistan that a company will start work, on the detailed engineering study in 2012, and will receive authorisation order in August 2015,” the source maintained adding that the detailed engineering design study (DEDS) will cost Rs 937 million.

The Australian company SMEC has 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 the study has underestimated the flood water in the reservoir. The European Union has rejected the design of the project on grounds that in the event of 30 per cent more flooding compared to floods of 2010, the structure of the dam will be impacted.

The SMEC has estimated the flow of 817000 cusec of water in the dam while in actual the flow 967000 cusec water will touch the dam during flood season, the source maintained. The SMEC study could endanger the lives and property of millions of people in the area, the source added.

Earlier it was decided, by the Planning Commission, to cancel the contract of SMEC for producing flawed engineering study, hand over the project to Nespak and recover money from SMEC but later the decision was changed. Now it is also decided that instead of SMEC, Nespak will lead the consortium and both together will correct the flaws in the detailed engineering design study (DEDS), the source informed.

The CDWP in its meeting in March 2014 had approved the construction of Munda dam in principle and set six conditions before embarking on the project. The conditions are; conducting a special audit to assess legality and transparency of expenditure made by Wapda, lodging an internal inquiry by a committee to verify anomalies and fix responsibility, soliciting advice of Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, certification from Wapda that findings of ongoing environmental study being conducted by EU will not affect design, certification by Wapda that there will be no duplication of work and cost rationalisation. Most of the conditions set by the CDWP, for the construction of Munda dam, have already been addressed.

Munda Dam is a proposed multi-purpose concrete-faced rock-filled dam located on the Swat River approximately 37 km north of Peshawar and 5 km upstream of Munda Headworks in Mohmand Agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Munda Dam will store 1.29 million acre feet (MAF) of water for irrigation, generate 740 megawatt (MW) of electricity, contributing about 2.4 billion units of electricity 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 more interested in political gains.

PC-II for detailed engineering design and document was approved by the CDWP in August 2001 but after the lapse of 14 years the Planning Commission still roams around the paper work of the project. The delaying tactics used of the government is enhancing the cost of the project and incurring loss to the national exchequer, the source maintained. It is also pertinent to mention here that the Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power also expressed displeasure over the sluggish attitude of Planning Commission and said the important Munda dam project was intentionally delayed which is a criminal negligence.