ISLAMABAD: A major hydropower project being constructed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) successfully closed the gates of diversion tunnels on Saturday to start reservoir impoundment.
The Karot Hydropower Station, the first hydropower project under CPEC closed the gates of its diversion tunnels after six years of construction and officially started reservoir impoundment – the accumulation of water in its reservoir for future use.
Senior government functionaries describe the development as a huge “milestone”, marking the completion of around 95 percent of the project. Zuo Yaxi, head of the Engineering Department of China Three Gorges South Asia Investment Ltd. (CSAIL) counted challenges in the construction of the hydropower plant.
“We spent two years working out solutions to cope with the sandstone and mudstone underground, which interrupted our grouting work. We made it after repeated trial and error. The cement used for the construction was produced locally, so we tried very hard to control temperature rise and reduce cracks in the concrete,” he told Chinese media outlet.
The Karot Hydropower Station is located on the Jhelum River in Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab. With an installed capacity of 7,200 megawatts, it can provide over 3 billion kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year, supplying electricity to about 5 million people in the country.
“It is a big achievement,” Khalid Mansoor, Special Assistant on CPEC, told a media outlet. “It will be a big milestone for CPEC energy projects.”
Mansoor categorically denied media reports regarding a slowdown in the pace of CPEC initiatives. “Everything is under control,” he said. “Even small issues arising during the course of these projects have been resolved in the best possible manner.” He maintained all projects would be completed within their scheduled timeframe.
The project is an investment by China Three Gorges Corporation, a Chinese enterprise that’s among the world’s largest producers of hydroelectric power. Its subsidiary, CSAIL, holds the majority share of the Karot Power Company that operates the plant. The plant will be transferred to the provincial government after 30 years.
According to official documents, more than 90 percent work on the project has already been completed, and power generation is expected to start from April 2022.
After the completion of the project, the company will run and maintain it for 30 years at tariff of 7.57 cents per unit after which it will be transferred to the Punjab government at a notional price of Rs1, according to the Karot Power Company that is doing the construction work. Official documents reveal the project has provided about 4,870 jobs to local residents of the area.
The Karot Hydropower Station is the first investment project of the Silk Road Fund, and is part of the CPEC. Once completed, it’s expected to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Pakistan by 3.5 million tonnes per year.