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Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower project is being shut down due to safety concerns

The Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project faces its second shutdown in a year due to safety concerns, as announced by the Water and Power Development Authority.

The closure comes after pressure fluctuations in the project’s headrace tunnel. Valued at over Rs500 billion, the 969-megawatt plant had recently resumed full operations in March after a 13-month hiatus to repair cracks in the tailrace tunnel.

However, on April 2, a sudden drop in headrace tunnel pressure necessitated a reduction in power generation. Despite efforts to stabilize the pressure, further fluctuations led to a complete shutdown on May 1 for safety reasons.

WAPDA is collaborating with project consultants and international experts to pinpoint the cause of the pressure fluctuations and devise a plan for necessary remedial actions. The process includes dewatering the 48km-long headrace tunnel for physical inspection.

The recent setback amplifies worries regarding the long-term sustainability of the project and its track record of technical challenges.

Commencing construction in 2002 and concluding in 2018, the Neelum-Jhelum project has encountered persistent delays, budget overruns, and safety apprehensions.

These recurring shutdowns have inflicted considerable financial setbacks, with past repairs amounting to approximately Rs6 billion and an estimated Rs37 billion in forfeited energy generation.

WAPDA has initiated insurance claims for these losses and is actively participating in discussions concerning the present circumstances.

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