ISLAMABAD: The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) chairman has resigned just six days after a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over the reasons for delay in implementation of hydroelectric power projects.
In his place, Lieutenant General (Retired) Muzammal Ahmad is tipped to take over as the new Wapda head.
The prime minister a few days ago had inspected the Neelum Jhelum hydroelectric power project and intended to visit the Tarbela fourth extension project, which has been delayed by almost one year. He wants the completion of both the projects by next year.
A cell has been established at the Prime Minister Secretariat to monitor progress on all the projects including hydroelectric power and thermal projects as the government is seeking to eliminate load-shedding in the country by 2018 – a commitment made by the premier to the nation.
On August 20, the Wapda chairman visited the Tarbela 4th extension project where he was informed that it had been delayed for different reasons including abnormally high flows, the regulator’s constraints in relation to the release of water from the dam and an accident on the site on July 2.
According to officials, the Wapda chairman at that time made up his mind to quit the office and probably conveyed this to the Ministry of Water and Power.
On Monday, he tendered his resignation citing personal reasons and indicating that he would continue to perform his duties till the appointment of the new chairman.
Mehmood, who also served as federal secretary in different capacities including secretary water and power during the previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government, was made Wapda chairman by the current government.
He was made OSD several times during the PPP government over differences on several issues. He became controversial after writing a series of articles on the Kalabagh Dam.
In a high-level meeting in March, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was irked over the delay in completion of power projects. He directed the Ministry of Water and Power to prepare a report about the commitments made by the Wapda chairman in relation to the power projects and reasons for the delay.
In recent months, the premier has announced on different occasions that power outages will come to an end in 2018 – the election year – but it appears to be difficult to achieve.
The government had planned to complete power plants of 10,000-megawatt capacity until the winter of 2018 but the prime minister has now been told that the Neelum Jhelum hydroelectric power project and Tarbela 4th extension project with a cumulative capacity of 2,369MW have been delayed.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in a meeting chaired by the premier, said the Wapda chairman had assured in January 2016 that the Tarbela 4th extension project with a 1,400MW capacity would start functioning in July 2017.
Regarding the 969MW Neelum Jhelum project, the meeting was informed that it could not be completed by the set timeframe as excavation of 4,877 metres of tunnel would require another 16 months, keeping in view the pace of work.
In this case too, the PM expressed his annoyance over failure to meet the commitment and asked for reasons behind the delay.
An official of the power ministry argued that no effective monitoring mechanism was in place.