969-MW Neelum Jhelum project begins filling reservoir

The Pakistan Water & Power Development Authority (WPDA) has begun filling the reservoir for the 969-MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower project.

According to the utility, the project has completed constructing the 160-meter-long by 60-meter-high concrete gravity dam allowing reservoir impoundment that began today with regulating closure of spillway gates.

Water level will be raised at a rate of 1 to 3 meters per day, and WPDA estimates it will take about a month to fill the reservoir.

Total storage of the reservoir is 8,207 acre feet, up to the design reservoir operating level of 1,015 meter above mean sea level. After successfully filling the reservoir, the water will be diverted into the waterway system by the end of 2017.

The project, estimated to cost more than US$4.5 billion, is part of a run-of-river scheme designed to divert water from the Neelum River to a powerhouse on the Jhelum River. The powerhouse is located in Azad Kashmir, 22 km south of Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan.

About 90% of the project is underground and will generate power using four 242.25 MW Francis turbines.

The first unit is scheduled to go into operation by the end of February 2018 followed by the second unit in mid-March and the third and fourth units in April 2018. According to WPDA, when completed, the project will provide annual revenues estimated at $769 million.

In June 2016, HydroWorld.com reported Neelum Jhelum has sparked controversy throughout its development — most notably due to conditions established between Pakistan and India by the 1960 Indus Water Treaty. With India developing its 330-MW Kishenganga project on the same waterway, the agreement dictates that whichever country completes its plant first will have priority rights to the river.

See the latest information here: Stalemate between India, Pakistan continues after most recent round of Indus Waters Treaty discussions

WPDA said filling the reservoir will not affect the water requirements downstream of the dam because one of the three gates of the spillway will remain open during the process. The utility also said as much as 15 cubic feet per second compensatory water will always be released downstream of the dam “to cater for the population needs and sustain the aquatic ecosystem that is dependent on the Neelum River.”

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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