CHITRAL: Statements being issued by a group of individuals from Booni demanding that the 500 kv powerhouse established by SRSP at Domadumi be made “operational” and threatening a sit-in (dharna) unless their demands are met are based on “mala fide” and contradictory to the ground realities, said an official of the SRSP.
The powerhouse meant to electrify Booni was completed in Nov 2017 and supplies electricity to parts of Booni since March 2020.
Total 527,344 kw of electricity has been provided to PEDO by SRSP from Domadumi powerhouse between March 2020 and December 2020 for Booni, the SRSP official told ChitralToday, requesting anonymity.
If the cost of electricity supplied by SRSP to PEDO is calculated at PESCO tariff it would come to almost Rs7.5 million, and if calculated at PEDO rates it would amount to Rs1.5 million, he added.
Sources claimed that the SRSP has not received a single penny for the electricity it has supplied to PEDO to this date. The routine operational cost including staff salaries, repair and maintenance work, spare parts etc., are also borne by SRSP.
The sources said during summers when the water in the river is high the electricity consumers were 660 households which is half of Booni, and in winters it is 332 households and with improvements at the channel head this would go up closer to 500 kv in the summers. It is worth to mention that in mountain areas hydel powers have this problem. The 108 MW Golen Gol powerhouse of WAPDA could produces only 60-80 MWs in the summers while in winter its production reduces to 10 MWs.
Regarding the Domadumi powerhouse, the official said between 2012 and 2017 SRSP received funding from European Union to establish hydro power stations across Malakand Division. Chitral was lucky to get highest number of projects against the numbers that should have been allocated according to its population but SRSP management preferred to maximize allocation to Chitral because of the higher potential that it had and the lack of electricity in many parts of the district.
Keeping in view the funding constraints and the government rules, it was decided that powerhouse established at Booni would be linked with the PEDO grid to supplement the electricity provided to it from Golen Gol and Reshun projects. The donor did not provide funding for transmission lines to these places. Since the local grid already existed no separate lines would be laid in these areas.
This decision enabled SRSP to approve more projects in Chitral than it would have otherwise been able to do but made the supply of electricity in areas where there was a grid already existing dependent on that grid. In the case of Booni, this would be PEDO. It is also learned that as per the government policy SRSP could not install parallel transmission lines in a locality where PEDO has already its transmission system, rather electricity produced by SRSP would be injected to the available government transmission facility.
The Booni powerhouse was completed in November 2017 with an average cost of 150,000 per kw of electricity production by SRSP in Chitral which is far less than the national average on such projects which highlights the fact that the criticism about the project is totally misleading.
A senior technical expert who has a number of time visited this powerhouse in the presence of government officials and community members said for the first time a Kaplan low head turbine had to be used. Kaplan is a turbine used for low head power houses.
In Booni, you could only build low head power house and the installation cost of this is higher than the other turbines. But the donors and evaluators found the cost of the powerhouse and its production perfectly economical. SRSP also laid 8.5 km HT line to bring the electricity from the powerhouse to Booni and connect it to the PEDO grid. Later, SRSP submitted an application to PEDO to connect the electricity supply to the grid but this process took two years and seven months to sign an agreement with PEDO to make this possible.
Supply of electricity from SRSP powerhouse to one feeder of Booni started in March 2020 while the agreement was made effective from that date though it was signed in July that year. Surprisingly, SRSP has not received till now a single penny as payment from PEDO which collects the dues, receives payments many months after collections are made.
During this entire period, when the powerhouse was completed and efforts were being made to reach an agreement with PEDO for transmission of electricity on its LT lines, the community in Booni which is very vocal today kept lips tightened and no efforts were made to expedite the agreement process between PEDO and SRSP. Now when they have seen quality electricity from this powerhouse they want to criticize it another topic; not supplying electricity to them but they forget that distribution of electricity inside Booni is the matter of PEDO, thus it also shows mala fide intentions.
Sources said that in case of Booni it is impossible to fulfil the requirements of 1,200 households through the 500 kv powerhouse. Actually, one feeder of Booni gets electricity from the national grid but unfortunately the quality of the HT lines from the 108 megawatts powerhouse at Golen to Upper Chitral, which are basically distribution lines of PEDO, are in deplorable conditions and as a result the quality of electricity reaching Booni is poor with very low voltage.
Reshun powerhouse of PEDO destroyed in 2015 is not rebuilt yet. Both of these are public issues but no one in Booni seems unaware of them and are not willing to put pressure on the government to get its act together. However, they are interested in attacking the powerhouse which is functional and supply electricity to hundreds of households in Booni.
In Booni, there are two feeders, one is connected to SRSP powerhouse and the second is not connected to SRSP line. PEDO collects utilities and also charges SRSP rents for the distribution systems and it is its responsibility to bring about modifications in its system and fulfil the need of people.
Community activists, who benefit from the SRPS powerhouse say that the shouting in Booni is not about a powerhouse not generating electricity but it is about a powerhouse generating good quality of electricity which everyone wants. However, to make this possible, an investment of Rs 1.5 million is needed to make in the transmission lines so that SRSP electricity is connected to the two feeder lines of PEDO in Booni. But who should make this investment?
Obviously, it is the responsibility of PEDO as it collects tariff from consumers. In there anyone aware about the fact that PEDO is deducting charges from SRSP in the name of “wheeling charges” against the use of transmission line. So why is PEDO not doing this when it is collecting the dues and deducts charges for the use of the lines.
SRSP with the intention to help the people of Booni had brought the limitations of some of these powerhouses in the notice of donor European Union and the latter had agreed to fund these but because of COVID pandemic it diverted the funds to South America, sources associated with SRSP told ChitralToday.
It is also learned that SRSP is focused on sustaining the system. Staff salaries at the powerhouse are being paid, ensure routine operation and maintenance, spare parts and time bound routine work is ongoing because the water level goes up and down with the flow of river, all these are carried out by SRSP despite the fact that PEDO has not paid any amount for the electricity being supplied to Booni during the past nine months.
It is learned that some people in Booni had suggested that they had the poles which could be sold, SRSP had agreed to contribute part of the payments to link the remaining feeder with the SRSP electricity. But deadlock remained as the people of Booni having poles in their disposal wants SRSP to promise them that they will be paid for the poles.
SRSP agreed to do this even to help them out but was not ready to set any timeline for payment because in a situation where it has not received single penny for what has already been distributed it will maximize the expenditures.
The SRSP official added that the problem in Booni is not that the powerhouse is not producing electricity but that people in Booni want that the uninterrupted electricity from the powerhouse should be rotated among them so that they get relief from the outages. But in the journey from bad electricity to good electricity public circle in Booni should ask the government department about its responsibility regarding transmission line and connectivity.