Pakistani experts return home after inspecting Indian hydropower projects

LAHORE: A three-member delegation of Pakistani experts returned home after inspecting various hydropower projects at Chenab basin in India. The delegation during its six-day visit inspected the projects under the Indus Water Treaty on the invitation of New Delhi-based office of the Indian commissioner for Indus waters.

“Our visit remained successful, as we inspected four hydropower projects at Chenab basin in India, including 1,000MW Pakal Dul, 48MW Lower Kalnai, 850MW Ratlay and 900MW Baglihar dam,” Pakistan’s commissioner for Indus waters Syed Mehr Ali Shah, who led the delegation, told media after returning home from India. He said the construction work on Pakal Dul dam, which was earlier stopped, had resumed. Though access roads had been constructed, civil work on the dam was yet to begin, he added.

Mr Shah said no work had started on Lower Kalnai and Ratlay projects, as the contractor, who was mobilised earlier, had left the work.

“We witnessed that the contractor camp was abandoned, as there was no construction activity. We also visited the areas of these projects in detail, by going up to the river site,” he added.

He said the delegation also inspected the Baglihar dam, which was generating 150MW of power on the day due to low water flows in the river during the ongoing winter.

“There we, under the decision of the neutral experts, had to see whether or not the operation of this plant was according to the project design. So after the visit, we found operation of the plant according to its design,” he explained.

Mr Shah said the visit provided Pakistan an opportunity to devise its next strategies. However, observations and concerns noted by the Pakistani experts during the visit would not be made public before conveying these to their counterparts formally.

“We cannot make our observations, concerns public, as we will convey these to our counterpart in India either through a letter or meeting,” he added.

Mr Shah appreciated the Indian authorities for rendering full cooperation in carrying out the inspection of the projects by the Pakistani experts. “Though they [Indians] had planned our visits to various sites, we visited even the sites (up/down streams) we desired. They also provided us foolproof security,” he said.

According to Water Resources Secretary Khawaja Shumail, the Pakistani experts’ visit to India was very successful.

He said Pakistan had also invited the Indian experts to visit Kotri barrage whenever they desired.

“Our delegation has invited them to visit Pakistan, as their visit, under decisions of the two-day meeting of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters (PCIW) held in Lahore in August last year, is scheduled after the end of the visit of Pakistani experts. So now it is up to them when they visit Kotri barrage,” he said, adding that they wanted the Indian experts to visit Kotri barrage by March.

It may be recalled that as a result of the 115th meeting of the PCIW in Lahore, India had scheduled inspection of its projects by the Pakistani experts in September last year, but later scheduled it for October. However, India again postponed the inspection at a later stage due to local bodies’ elections in the areas where the projects are located.

Finally, India through a letter scheduled the visit from Jan 28 to Feb 1. While scheduling the visit (Jan 28 to Feb 1), they also clarified that though the tour by the Pakistani experts was first scheduled for September and then October, it couldn’t be made possible because of local Panchayat elections in the area and then the winter session of Indian parliament.