Govt to win back donors for Neelum-Jehlum project’s completion

  • Dar directs formation of team to reengage Islamic Development Bank and Exim Bank China for speeding up project’s funding
  • Minister says they will consider making supervisory committee to ensure efficient execution of project by 2016

As the cost escalates for Neelum Jehlum Hydro Power project, the government has decided to form a team to re-engage the donors, Islamic Development Bank and Exim Bank China, for speeding up the project’s funding so that it is completed by 2016.

An official said that considering the political benefits, the government has decided to complete the project “at all costs”, even though the cost of the project is estimated to increase from Rs 274 billion to over Rs 400 billion. If full financing was provided, the project could be completed by November 2016.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday chaired a meeting to review the progress on the Neelum-Jehlum Hydropower project. WAPDA Chairman Zafar Mehmood briefed the meeting, attended by minister for water and power Khwaja Asif, EAD Secretary Mohammad Saleem Sethi, NJHPP CFO Abdul Sattar Jajja and senior officials of the ministries.

The source said the meeting was informed that the donors have stopped financing the project which was creating hurdles for the project’s implementation. The Arab donors have only released $259.5 million out of committed amount of $692 million, while they have set new conditions for the release of remaining $433 million.

During the meeting, the minister directed the Neelum-Jehlum Hydropower project team to sum up their numbers. He also directed formation of a team to re-engage Islamic Development Bank and Exim Bank China for speeding up the project’s funding.

Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif said they will consider making of a supervisory committee to ensure the efficient execution of the project.

According to a Finance Ministry statement, the finance minister told the meeting that the completion of hydropower projects was the government’s priority as they are vital for the country’s development.

The cost of the Neelum-Jehlum Hydropower project has increased due to delays in its execution because of the changes in the original design after 2005 earthquake, the minister said.

“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. For achieving this objective, we will try to satisfy them on all their concerns,” he added.

Neelum Jehlum Hydro project Technical Team Head General (r) Mohammad Zubair said that according to the most recent report from his team, the progress of work has reached 72 percent in the tenure of the present government and it will be completed with “utmost efficiency”.\

The WAPDA chairman said that 70 percent of the issues of the project have been resolved so far and it is making speedy progress as compared to the past.