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Neelum Jhelum Hydroelectric Project - An Environment Disaster

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

26 June, 2010

At a time when different provinces and politicians of Pakistan were arguing with each other whether to construct the Kala Bagh Dam or not, puppet leaders of Islamabad in Pakistani Administered Kashmir said : for sake of Pakistan we will build 100 dams in Azad Kashmir.

This shows mental attitude of these so called leaders and level of their slavish attitude, which is worse than Karzai of Afghanistan and Malaki of Iraq. The Kala Bagh Dam if built was to benefit Pakistan , and yet people of those areas had serious reservations. They opposed it tooth and nail, and got it cancelled; puppets of Pakistani Administered Kashmir welcome this kind of construction as they also get appropriate rewards; and for that if people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir suffer they don't care.

Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is located near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. It aims to dig a tunnel and divert water of Neelam River from Nauseri, about 41 KM East of Muzzafrabad. A Powerhouse will be constructed at Chatter Kalas, 22 Km South of Muzaffarabad; and after passing through the turbines the water will be released in Jhelum River, about 4 Km South of Chatter Kalas. Once completed, the Neelam Jhelum Hydroelectric Project will produce 969 MW of electricity annually at the cost of US $2.16 billion.

This hydroelectric project was formally announced by former Minister Omar Ayub on 10 June 2007 . WAPDA selected MWH, a global provider of environmental engineering, strategic consulting and construction services, to provide engineering and construction management services for the Neelam-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project.

It is a joint Venture led by MWH and consisting of MWH, Pakistani firms NESPAK, ACE and NDC, and Norwegian firm NORPLAN. The MWH will provide design, make construction drawing preparation and management construction services; and the project will be completed within eight years.

A concrete gravity dam 135 m long and 47 m high will be constructed on Neelam River at Nauseri. The dam is designed for over-topping. The dam will create a head pond of 8 million cubic meters which will allow a peaking reservoir of 2.08 million cubic meters to meet daily peaking of power for more than 4 hours. A six gate tunnel intake structure of 280 cumec capacity will be connected with three conventional flushing surface basins installed at their end for taking sediment back into river.

The total length of head race tunnel is 28.5 Km. A 15.1 Km stretch of the tunnel from the Nauseri be constructed as a twin tunnel system each with cross section of 42 Sq.m. The remaining head race tunnel down to the surge chamber will be a single tunnel having cross section of 82 Sq.m. The tunnels are shotcrete lined with a concrete invert. The tunnel crosses Jhelum River approximately 380 meters below its bed. The tunnel will be accessed by 7 Adits for removal of excavated spoil.

The Surge Chamber consist of 340 m high riser shaft and 820 m long surge tunnel, Four steel lined Penstock tunnels 150 m long and having 3.8 m internal diameter will also be constructed. The under ground power Station will have 4 units with a total capacity of 969 MW. The Power Station will be connected with Rawat Grid station (in Pakistan ) through 500KV double circuit transmission line.

Salient features of the project

Overall Project Cost

Rs. 130 Billion  (US$ 2.16 billion)

Installed Capacity

969 MW Four Units @ 242 MW each

Dam  Type  

Concrete Gravity

Height / Length                   

47 / 135 Meters

Annual Energy          

5.150 Billion electricity Units

Average Head          

420 Meters

Design Discharge

280 Cumecs


Two; each dia; 7.3 meter - 15 km,  One; dia; 9.6 meter-17Km,(Total 47 KM)



Implementation Period    

8 Years


Project benefits  as explained by WAPDA

  • Reduction of dependent on thermal power
  • Saving in foreign exchange
  • Employment opportunity during construction and operation
  • Improved standard of living infrastructure
  • Social-economic uplift of the area


  • Construction Contact was awarded, on July 07, 2007 , to M/s CGGC-CMEC Consortium China  for implementation of the project at a cost of Rs. 90.90 Billions.
  • Construction Agreement was signed on December 19, 2007 . Letter of Commencement was issued on January 30, 2008 .
  • Contractor has mobilized at Site. Preparatory works and construction of Contractor's camps at Nosadda & Chatter Kalas are in progress.


Government of Pakistan has approved financial arrangement for the project:

  • Established Neelam Jhelum Hydropower Company for project implementation
  • Imposition of surcharge at 10 Pisa per unit on power tariff for NJHEP fund providing for 50% fund requirement
  • Balance equity to be arranged through loans and bonds etc.
  • Revised PSDP (2007-2008) allocation of Rs.5700 Million.


  • Project envisages acquisition of approx, 2400 kanals of private and State land in the project Area in Muzaffarabad District.
  • So far WAPDA has transferred Rs.705 Million to Govt. of AJ&K as provisional cost of the Notified Private and state land.
  • WAPDA has taken possession of 80% land; and arrangements are being made to acquire the remaining land. 15

Criticism on the project

    1. Like other projects conceived and completed by the WAPDA in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, this project is also designed to benefit Pakistan at the expense of the local people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir.
    2. Although the work has already started on the project, but as yet there is no written agreement between WAPDA and government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. This shows what kind of role or influence government of Pakistani Administered Kashmir has over this matter; or any matter related to development, welfare of people and environment.
    3. Unlike WAPDA claims the project will not help the local people in any form or shape. The employment opportunities are for the people of Pakistan or foreign workers. So far only five jobs are given to the local people, which are: chefs, cleaners and watchmen.
    4. Majority of population lives in rural areas and their existence and life largely depends upon forestry, livestock and agriculture. River water and natural springs are main source for drinking and irrigation of land; and this diversion of river will have serious water shortage, which will make life miserable for the local people.
    5. The project will have very serious impact on environment of the area, as it plays a key role in the configuration of Himalayan ecosystem. Environmental groups have expressed their concerns about prospective environmental hazards on local economy and biodiversity.
    6. Ecologists say the project area has significant conservational importance due to abundant of forests, aquatics life and presence of many species of wild life, which have been declared endangered globally.
    7. The project will also have serious impact on the habitat of various rare species considered on the verge of extinction. Developmental activities in the area and other changes will surely have negative impact on the natural habitat of wildlife.
    8. Beauty of this area is enhanced by this river; and this diversion will have serious affect on wild life, weather and beauty of the area.
    9. The river and the beauty of the area attract tourists and provide clean water to the local people and citizens of Muzaffarabad; and this diversion of water will deprive the area of clean water and reduce the Neelam River to ‘Nalah Lahi' in Rawalpindi which has dirty water and creates enormous problems for the citizens.
    10. This project, once completed will benefit Pakistan , but local people will not benefit from it in any form or shape. There will be serious economic and environmental consequences for the local people; and their future generations will face very serious economic and environmental problems.

Indian hydro electric generation project on Neelam River (Kishen Ganga)

Interestingly India also plans to build a dam on the Neelam River which is known as Kishen Ganga on the Indian side of the divide. Indian plan is to divert water through a 21 KM long tunnel before it enters Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and release the water into Bonar Madumati Nullah - a tributary of the Jhelum River . The diverted water would be used for generating electricity and feeding the Wullar Lake in the process.

In other words, after the completion of this project, the water of Neelam River or Kishen Ganga will join River Jhelum at Bandipore on the Indian side of LOC instead of its present convergence at Domel in Muzaffarabad, Pakistani Administered Kashmir.

Pakistan has serious objections to this project, as they feel this project will reduce flow of water in the Neelam River when it enters Pakistani Administered Kashmir; and it will have severe impact on their project - Neelam-Jhelum Hydro Electric Project. The government of Pakistan wishes to resolve this issue bilaterally, but there is also talk of invoking the arbitration process enshrined in the Indus Water Treaty of 1960.

Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com

To view other articles see my blog: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com