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China helping Pakistan solve power crisis despite threats

Several Chinese companies and institutes are working closely with Pakistan to address its energy crisis despite severe security threats, a senior official of a Chinese power major has said.

The work on the landmark Gomal Zam Dam came to a halt on October 2004 after unidentified militants kidnapped two Chinese engineers working on the project at the northwestern Pakistan near the Afghanistan border.

One was saved but the other was killed in rescue efforts. Two years passed by before work resumed on the project.

“The Chinese staff members were brave because the location of the plant was close to Afghanistan and relatively dangerous. That intimidated many other foreign engineers,” said Xiong Lixin, vice-president of Sinohydro Corp Ltd, who had served as a project manager at the dam.

“The security measures would not have worked if there wasn’t a firm friendship between the two nations,” said Xiong, who left Pakistan in 2011.

Xiong told state-run ‘China Daily’ that Pakistan sent helicopters to escort him to the construction site in 2006 and also dispatched armed security guards to protect the Chinese staff.

With a capacity of 17,400 KW, the dam’s hydropower plant was successfully connected to the national grid on June 26 and will provide energy to about 25,000 households. The dam will also help the country avoid annual economic losses of USD 2.6 million due to flooding.

In August last year, Some nine Water and Power Development Authority employees working on the Gomal Zam Dam project were kidnapped by unidentified armed men.

Li Shaotong, economic and commercial counselor of the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, said security uncertainties for Chinese workers remain even after the Pakistani elections in May which saw the country’s first democratic transit of power.

The searing hot weather also poses another challenge for Chinese projects in the country.

Wang Xiaojun, an engineer at China Nuclear Industry No 5 Construction Co, said temperatures reach above 35 degrees Celsius “for several months a year” at the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant in north Pakistan, which his company has recently helped build.

Having enough manpower was another obstacle. Many Pakistani workers lacked the technical training needed for the project, said Wang.

The Shanghai Marine Diesel Engine Research Institute recently agreed to help build a power plant in Pakistan with an annual capacity of 960,000 MW, that uses the sugarcane byproduct to produce electricity.

“Pakistan is a country rich in sugarcane and turning that into electricity is a very cost-effective option for the country to find a way out of its shortage of energy,” said head of the institute, Jin Donghan.

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