Pakistan PM forms committee to probe fault in Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project

The picture posted on December 25, 2022 shows a view of Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project Located on River Neelum in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. (Tahir Mahmood)
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  • Power generation at Neelum-Jhelum project was suspended earlier this month due to a technical fault 
  • PM Sharif wants third-party experts to probe matter, says delay in findings of inquiry will not be tolerated

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif formed a cabinet committee on Thursday to probe a technical fault in the 969MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, which was shut down earlier this month after a problem was detected in its head race tunnel.

Located on River Neelum in Azad Kashmir, the project generates 5.15 billion units of power annually but has faced several problems over the years. The project first shut down in 2022 after a fault was detected in its head race tunnel but was later restored after a year in September 2023. The same problem was detected in April 2024 and power generation was suspended again earlier this month. 

Sharif called for an urgent probe into the matter when he visited the project site during his day-long visit to Azad Kashmir, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said. 

The prime minister expressed his displeasure that the inquiry’s findings were still not finalized, directing officials to submit a report on the matter within days and restore power generation after repair work was done as early as possible.

“I am very much clear. I need a thorough probe into whether lapses were in the design or in the construction and the responsibility should be fixed,” Sharif was quoted as saying by the PMO.

“No more delays will be acceptable.”

Sharif lamented that $5 billion was spent on the project despite its initial cost being estimated at $40 million, adding that it was unfortunate that the project was still facing technical issues. 

The prime minister described the Neelum-Jhelum project as one of “national significance” in the power sector, saying it was constructed at a huge cost and must remain functional for decades.

He directed that the inquiry must be carried out by third-party experts and not by the designer or contractor of the project.

“If a mistake has been made and someone has committed an excess, then they will have to pay the fine,” Sharif said. “This is the trust of the nation, we will have to answer to them.”