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$425m sought for Swat hydro projects – Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is seeking $425 million from the World Bank group to develop run-of-river hydropower projects on Swat River Basin which has an estimated energy potential of 2,000MW.

The KP government has developed a project at a cost of $782m. However, this financing plan is indicative and efforts would be made to mobilise as much commercial financing as feasible while the share of the provincial government would depend upon the level of commercial capital mobilised, according to a document re­­leased by the WB.

The $425m loan also inculded $287m from the Inter­national Deve­lopment Associa­tion (IDA).

The proposed funding by the WB will be the first engagement with the KP government in the hydropower sector through its executing agency, Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (PEDO), which has some experience of working with the Asian Development Bank that has financed two small projects of 17MW and 3MW for administering international financing institutions funds and complying with their requirements regarding environmental and social due diligence, safeguards and oversight.

The project area includes Upper Dir and Swat districts which are part of the Malakand division. The topography of the area is dominated by high mountains located among the foothills of the Hindukush mountain range. The total hydropower potential of Swat River basin also includes several run-of-river hydropower projects of varying capacity ranging from 10MW to 200MW.

An 88MW run-of-river Gabral-Kalam hydropower project on Gabral tributary of Swat River for which feasibility study has been conducted will be tendered first followed by construction of two to three additional hydropower projects on the Swat River basin based on their detained design studies and environmental and social assessments to be carried out during implementation.

The Gabral-Kalam hydropower project consists of a concrete gravity weir of about 21 meters in height and 145 meters in length and a water conveyance system of 5.5km including 4.7 km head race tunnel of 5.8 meter in diameter. It will provide 340 gigawatts hours of electricity per annum.

The Swat River is a perennial river in the northern region of KP, its source is in the Hindukush mountains and Himalayas and fed by glacial waters. The river commences in the Kalam Valley of Swat Kohistan with the confluence of two main tributaries Ushu and Gabral (or Utrar) and runs with high velocity downstream in a narrow gorge up to Baghdheri. Then the river enters the plain areas of Swat Valley where it is a meandering river and receives drainage from the entire Swat Valley.

An inception document of the World Bank says that the project activities also involve installation of solar photovoltaic panels. Such activities are likely to cause adverse environmental and social impacts. Some of these impacts are expected to be permanent and irreversible.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020

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