Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday directed authorities to expedite work on the Rs 274.88-billion Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and make it functional by 2014-15. The project will help to overcome the country`s energy crisis.
During a visit to the site of the project, Sharif told reporters that the authorities had sought time till 2016 to complete the project but he had declined and instead directed them to finish it by 2014-15.
He said it was regrettable that such projects had not been given due attention because of vested interests but such a culture would have to be changed. The Neelum-Jhelum project could not be completed over the past few years and its cost had increased to around Rs 275 billion, he said.
"Twenty-nine years have passed but the project is yet to be completed," he said, adding nobody had questioned the gross negligence behind the delay.
"If such projects were given priority in the past, they could have been completed. We are fully committed to complete such projects," he said.
Referring to the energy crisis, Sharif said the government is devising an energy policy that might be finalized within a fortnight.
He said he was optimistic that the government and the people could together resolve the problem. Responding to a query, he said terrorism was also being tackled seriously. "The main issues are the lack of economic growth and rising poverty, which gave rise to (terrorism)," he said.
Referring to the proposal for building a Khunjrab-Gwadar-Karachi road and rail link, he expressed his resolve to take up the project soon as it would be a "game changer" for the country.
On June 24, a team will go to China for consultations on the project with other stakeholders, he said.
Syed Raghib Abbas Shah, chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority and the Neelum-Jhelum company chief briefed the premier on the project. The power house of the project is located at Chattar Kalass, 22 km south of PoK capital Muzaffarabad.
The installed capacity of the project is 969 MW. The original cost of the project was Rs 130 billion but it later escalated to Rs 274.882 billion due to a change in design and requirement of machinery after the earthquake of 2005. China`s Gezhouba Group Corporation is constructing the 62-km tunnel and a workforce of about 5,000 is involved in the project.