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Tarbela extension project receives overwhelming response from bidders

The 1,410MW Tarbela fourth extension project received an unprecedented response from both local and international bidders, a statement said.

A total of 18 bidders participated in the pre-qualification conference, including companies from the United States, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, China and Dubai, which was held last week at WAPDA House, it said.

Analysts said that at a time when international companies, especially those from Europe and the United States, seem reluctant to bid for the projects in Pakistan for one reason or the other, the overwhelming response for the Tarbela fourth extension project reflects the confidence of the international firms in this project. Mohsin Syed, a power sector expert, said that it was after a long time that European and American firms have shown interest in a hydropower project in Pakistan. During the last 15 years, China was the only regular foreign bidders, he said, adding that if any of the European or American qualifies, it would pave the way for speedy completion of the water sector projects in Pakistan, as Chinese contractors have invariably delayed the project awarded to them in recent decades.

The Tarbela fourth extension project is a part of least-cost power generation strategy aimed at adding a sizeable quantum of electricity to the national grid and improving the ratio of the low-cost hydroelectricity in the overall system to stabilise tariff, the statement said.

After installation of 1,410MW units as part of the extension project, the generation capacity of the existing Tarbela hydropower station will rise to 4,888MW. The extension project includes installation of three units of 470MW each at Tarbela dam on the existing Tunnel 4 that is being used for irrigation purposes, it said, adding that the World Bank is providing $840 million for the project.

When contacted, Shakil Durrani, chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), said he believes that Pakistan’s hydropower potential fascinates the engineers and investors the world over. He said obtaining financial assistance for these highly feasible projects from donor agencies and development banks poses no problem.

He expressed satisfaction over the response shown by the global players in Tarbela hydropower project and said upon completion this hydropower project will provide around 3.84 billion units low-cost electricity annually to the national grid.

The annual benefits of the project have been estimated at around Rs30 billion, he said, adding that the project will pay back its cost in just three years. Additionally, he said, the project will also be instrumental in saving foreign exchange on import of almost one million tons of furnace oil annually, required for the equivalent generation of electricity from thermal sources. The project will also provide a cushion to undertake rehabilitation and upgradation of the existing Tarbela power house during the lean period, he added.

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