Four reported dead following blast at Pakistan’s 969-MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower plant

Four workers were killed and 10 other wounded after an explosion rocked a tunnel at the 969-MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower plant last week, local sources have reported.

The run-of-river plant is being constructed on the Neelum River near Azad Kashmir. It is suspected that the blast was caused by a boring machine striking a gas pocket.

The incident is the project’s second in recent months following the death of four when a wall collapsed in December.

HydroWorld.com reported in March that the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) had provided US$32 million for the project.

Pakistan has previously announced funding for Neelum Jhelum from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Saudi Fund,Opec Fund for International Development and the Export-Import Bank of China, amongst others.

The project has sparked controversy throughout its development, however, as the 330-MW Kishanganga hydroelectric plant — being developed by India’s National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) — would use from the same river.

WAPDA has made the completion of Neelum Jhelum a priority as international courts have said the country that completes its hydropower project first will have priority rights to the Neelum River’s waters.

The plant was originally scheduled to begin generating power this year, though WAPDA now says the facility’s first units might not be commissioned until 2016.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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