Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pakistan to Build Massive Dams for Abundant Water and Power

China and Pakistan have agreed to finance and build two mega dams in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for this development was signed by the leaders of the two countries on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in Beijing.

Actual vs Potential Hydropower in South Asia. Source: Economist Magazine

The two dams, called Bunji and Diamer-Bhasha projects, will have the capacity to generate 7,100MW and 4,500MW of electricity respectively. China will provide $27 billion to fund the construction of the two dams, according to media reports.

Pakistan's Hydropower Potential: 

Pakistan has the potential to generate 59,000MW of hydropower, according to studies conducted by the nation's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Currently, it's generating only 6,600MW of hydroelectric power, about 11% of the estimated potential. Media reports indicate that China is prepared to finance and build another 40,000MW capacity as part of the development of the Northern Indus Cascade region which begins in Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan and runs through to Tarbela, the site of Pakistan’s biggest dam, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Diamer-Bhasha Water Storage:

Diamer-Bhasha project is located on Indus River, about 200 miles upstream from the existing Tarbela Dam, 100 miles downstream from the Northern Area capital Gilgit in Gilgit-Baltistan region.  It will generate 4,500 MW of electricity and its reservoir will hold so much water that it could have averted recent devastating floods that affected large parts of Pakistan. It would also provide enough electricity to end  Pakistan's crippling shortages, according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.  The Diamer-Bhasha reservoir would be 50 miles long, holding 8.5 MAF (million acre feet) of water.

Response to Climate Change:

Pakistan has made only a small contribution to climate change through carbon emissions.  And yet, it counts among the dozen or so nations considered most vulnerable to its damaging effects. These include rising temperatures, recurring cycles of floods and droughts and resulting disruption in food production.

One of the ways Pakistan can help reduce carbon emissions is by realizing its full hydroelectric potential by building more dams. The development of the Northern Indus Cascade region to generate 40,000MW of hydropower is a significant part of this effort.

Prerequisite for Economic Development: 

Availability of abundant and cheap electricity has historically preceded rapid economic development in America, Europe and East Asia. Pakistan has an opportunity to meet this prerequisite by generating large amounts of clean renewable hydropower to meet its hunger for energy required for rapid economic growth in all sectors of the economy ranging from agriculture to manufacturing and services.


Pakistan is endowed with significant amount of water and power resources that can be harnessed to enable rapid economic growth in all sectors of its economy. It appears that the Chinese investment, as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is now putting this goal within reach. Tens of thousands of megawatts of added electricity and millions of acre feet of additional water will hopefully transform Pakistan's economy and bring prosperity to its people.

Here's a video on the subject:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Recurring Cycles of Drought and Floods in Pakistan

Pakistan's Response to Climate Change

Renewable Energy for Pakistan

LNG Imports in Pakistan

Growing Water Scarcity in Pakistan

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Ownership of Appliances and Vehicles in Pakistan


Shams S. said...

Your comment re. Diamler Bhasha, "... its reservoir will hold so much water that it could have averted recent devastating floods that affected large parts of Pakistan ..." carries the old fakeness being pushed to Sindhis for Kalabagh dam.

The main reason for flooding in plains of Sindh and Punjab are the heavy rains in their plains, not in the mountains upstream of the dam sites. The Indus river bed is so vast that it can carry 24 inches of rain per hour if the rains are in the mountains alone. If there are rains both in the mountains and the plains, the dams are already full and will not even block the upstream water. Therefore, the dam will have no significant effect on flooding prevention. So the flooding prevention fakeness is bullshit. You should have known that.

Spending over $7 billion on construction alone for a dam like Diamer Bhasha is stupid too. According to US NREL cost report by Black & Veath, a 7,000 MW fossil fuel combined cycle plant costs nearly $5 billion. So this bullshit about capital cost saving is fake too.

According to US EIA, the ratio of typical hydro-electricity O&M incl. fuel cost against gas turbine electricity is 8.37 to 2.34, in gas turbine's favor. The issue with large dams' power is the maintenance of the fucking dam from cracking, silting, and the hydraulic turbines' massive blade damage and repair costs coming out of high speed silt and rocks gushing in with water. A single blade of a turbine can cost nearly $5 million to repair (remove, transport to Europe or US, repair, re-transport, and reinstall). So operating cost saving is a fucking bullshit too

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "Spending over $7 billion on construction alone for a dam like Diamer Bhasha is stupid too. According to US NREL cost report by Black & Veath, a 7,000 MW fossil fuel combined cycle plant costs nearly $5 billion. So this bullshit about capital cost saving is fake too. "

Here's an interesting analysis of thermal vs hydro power done by an Indian:

Hydro Power Vs Thermal Power: A Comparative Cost-Benefit Analysis Adesh Sharma, AIPL (Power Sector), India Abstract: This study seeks to trace the importance of Hydroelectric Power (HEP) vis-à-vis coal based Thermal power (TP), and establish a case for HEP plant by way of a comparative costbenefit analysis which proves that HEP is in fact cheaper than TP for a mega power plant (1000 MW) even if other factors like social and environmental benefits are not considered. While the analysis is neutral between various technologies for harnessing TP and HEP, it assumes real-time plant load factors (PLFs) of 85% and 45% for TP and HEP plants, respectively. Furthermore, it also tries to provide a brief analysis on the comparative CER earning potential from both HEP and TP (by employing supercritical technology)


Need and Importance of Hydroelectric Power
The need and importance of HEP can be attributed to the following advantages:
• It is a renewable source of energy, and non-polluting in nature.
• Fuel cost of HEP plant is inflation-free and reduces with time, thereby bringing down the
overall per unit cost.
• HEP plants have a long useful life, extending to 50-100 years, as compared to the 25 year
life-span of a TP plant.

HEP plants can be started or stopped instantaneously, providing for load variation
management, and improved reliability of the power system.
• HEP is considered as the best choice for serving peak load.
• It helps in conservation of scarcely available fossil fuels.
• Storage type HEP plants can be used for multiple purposes like flood control, irrigation,
provision of drinking and industrial water etc.
• HEP plants are usually set in remote/backward areas, thereby leading to their economic
Disadvantages of Hydroelectric Power Plants
In spite of the factors mentioned above, developing HEP does carry certain disadvantages:
• A variety of geological changes occur due to the construction of a dam on the river,
especially in the downstream area.
• Various plant and animal ecosystems gets adversely affected due to their submergence in
the water reservoir formed by the dam.
• The soil quality in downstream river declines.
• HEP plants are severely impacted by droughts. If water is not available, the plant would
not be able to produce electricity.
• Fish population gets affected if fish cannot migrate to the spawning grounds upstream
past impoundment dams, or if they cannot migrate downstream to the ocean.
However, such occurrences happen rarely and their impact is very low, as compared to the huge
benefits arising out of a HEP project development.


Conclusion It can thus be concluded that the benefits scored by hydroelectric power plants over thermal power plants have environmental benefits - on account of HEP being a renewable and sustainable source of energy, financial benefits - due to low cost of generation, the developers will have an advantage especially since merchant power sales is allowed in open market, coupled with a reasonable return on equity of 16%, and social benefits – like development of local area, provision of electricity, along with other bundled benefits like irrigation facilities, tourism, along with rise in demand for other industries’ products like cement, iron and steel, transport, etc.. and assisting in the creation of a low carbon self sustainable economy.

Mayraj said...

Hope this won't end up the way Iran has ended up, which like Pakistan has over exploited surface water.:
"Dam building, once considered a sign of progress, dried up the nation's rivers and other waterways through poorly conceived projects."

Iran's water crisis reaches critical levels
Water crisis in Iran: A desperate call for action
Iran’s water crisis the product of decades of bad planning

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "Hope this won't end up the way Iran has ended up, which like Pakistan has over exploited surface water.:
"Dam building, once considered a sign of progress, dried up the nation's rivers and other waterways through poorly conceived projects."

My understanding is that Iran's problem is caused mainly by excessive surface evaporation from lakes built in hot desert areas of the country.

Suhail H. said...

The most efficient way of storing rain water in underground. This can be done in sandy permeable soil to raise ground water level by building recharge dams using undulations in natural terrain. Since the rate of rain is greater than the rate of infiltration into the soil, the surplus water primarily runs off to a lower point of elevation, eventually the sea. The recharge dams prevent the surface run-off water from going into points of lower elevation, infiltrating the soil and replenishing the ground water reserves. This is very effectively done in Oman while neighboring Yemen with similar terrain is facing the worst water scarcity. In Pakistan, this aspect has never been taken up, focusing only on dams, which result in high evaporation and extremely expensive too. The focus on dams is probably because the high investment attracts bankers as well as contractors, and thus the rulers. Pakistan has many such areas where underground water storage can be feasibly; Thar being one such area and probably Balochistan coast too where I've seen some such primitive type of embankments (built by villagers) in the Pasni area.

Only a leadership committed to developing the country can promote this mechanism; the likes of Nawaz and Zardari are only interested in big projects where they can siphon off money.

Shahid A. said...

پہلی بات تو یہ کہ بونجی ڈیم نہیں ہے بلکہ رن آف دا ریور ہاڈرو پراجیکٹ ہے ۔
ان دونوں میں صرف بھا شا ہی ڈیم ہے ۔
دوسری بات یہ کہ بونجی کا ایسٹیمیٹ ۷ ارب ڈالر اور بھاشا کا ۱۴ ارب ڈالر ہے۔
اس طرح ان دونوں پراجیکٹس پر ٹوٹل خرچ ۲۱ ارب ڈالر آئے گا نا کہ ۲۷ ارب۔
ویسے بھی بھاشا پر ہم تھوڑا بہت پہلے ہی خرچ کر چکے ہیں اس لئے ۲۰ ارب کی فنانسنگ کی ضرورت ہے۔

Riaz Haq said...

Over 92% work completed on 969MW Neelum-Jhelum project

Over 92 percent work has already been completed on the ongoing 969 megawatts Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP) and its first unit will start supplying power to the national grid system in February 2018.

Official sources Tuesday told the state-run news agency in Islamabad that 2nd unit would start generating in March followed by third and fourth unit in April.

They said excavation of about 68-kilometer long tunnels system of the project has also been completed on May 5.

With this significant development, the water way system of the project would enter in the final phase which is scheduled to be completed in seven months and the tunnels would be ready to divert water from the dam site to Power House, they said.

They said impounding of the reservoir would commence during October this year.

The sources said 100 per cent work on excavation for instalment of turbines has also been completed.

Construction work on the project which started in 2008 remained slow due to certain reasons including financial constraints and redesigning of the project. However, most of the bottlenecks were removed during the present regime, they said.

They said work on the project is being carried out in full swing and upon completion, the NJHP would contribute 5.15 billion units of cheap electricity to the national grid.

The annual benefits accruing from the project have been estimated at Rs 45 billion.

The NJHP is located in the vicinity of Muzaffarabad. It envisages the diversion of Neelum River water through a tunnel out-falling into Jhelum River.

The intake Neelum-Jhelum is at Nauseri 41 km east of Muzaffarabad and has installed capacity of 969 megawatts.

This is an important project for generation of low-cost and the government is exploring all possible avenues to solve the energy crisis.

Around 4,243 kanals of land has been acquired for the project. Out of the total land, Azad Jammu & Kashmir authorities provided 719 kanals while the remaining 3,524 kanals are acquired from private land owners.