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Power plant at Port Qasim on the cards

The government has started work on a 660 megawatt coal-fired power project at Port Qasim after unexpected delays in its flagship 6,600MW Gadani coal energy corridor project.

Informed sources told Dawn that the government had launched the new initiative after former water and power minister retired Captain Haleem Siddiqui pointed out that a power plant could be immediately set up at Port Qasim where transmission lines already existed. He offered to make space for imported coal available at his jetty.

The sources said the secretary of water and power, Saifullah Chattah, who is also the managing director of the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB), and the senior executive director of the PPIB, N.A. Zuberi, also acting as the managing director of Gadani Power Park Management Company (GPPMC), had visited Port Qasim to assess availability of Mr Siddiqui’s jetty. They are currently finalising the project proposal for approval of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet.

On the other hand, the feasibility of the Gadani project, assigned to the National Engineering Services Pakistan, is expected to be completed in about two months. It will be followed by the assessment of environmental impact of the energy corridor about which questions have been raised by some stakeholders.

The project requires land acquisition on a large scale and substantial investments on transmission line for taking electricity produced at Gadani to the national grid. No formal work has been undertaken so far in connection with environmental impact assessment, land acquisition and transmission line.

Also, the government has not been able to induct staff or set up office infrastructure for the GPPMC.

The senior executive director of the PPIB is currently working as the chief executive officer of the company and a former executive of Mansha Group, Iqbal Shaikh, is acting as the project director, both on a temporary basis.

“Practically, the project has not made any mentionable progress from the stage in which the prime minister was given a PowerPoint presentation at Gadani four months ago,” said an official.

“Even the official about whom he inquired in a televised briefing if he had applied for the post of project director of the company is working on temporary basis,” he said.

In response to an advertisement, he said, the government had received a large number of applications for the posts of chief executive and project director of the company, including that of Iqbal Shaikh, but had made no appointment so far.

There is a feeling in the federal bureaucracy that a half-prepared company management may not stand the test of judicial scrutiny. Therefore, it has proposed work at a slow and careful pace for at least a couple of months.

As compared to Gadani, the sources said, infrastructure was already available at Port Qasim in close proximity of plants and transmission network of the Karachi Electric Supply Company.

Tentative regulatory approvals are also there in the form of upfront tariffs for power projects based on imported coal announced by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.

Once given the go-ahead, the Port Qasim project could be undertaken by the government or in collaboration with the private sector to complete it in shortest possible time of about eight to nine months, they said.

“The project has been envisaged as part of a contingency plan to increase power generation capacity to some extent at the earliest because large projects take time to materialise,” said the official.

The same strategy was being applied by starting work on Dassu dam simultaneously with the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam, he said.

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