Barely two weeks ago, the two experts called in by the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) government from Lahore, had repaired the cracked walls of the reservoir of the 18-megawatt Hydel Power Project at Naltar, restoring power to the city. Gilgit had witnessed a complete blackout for five consecutive days in the last week of January.
Their expertise failed to permanently stop the leakage from the reservoir, however, which reportedly increased to an alarming extent on Sunday, threatening more than 70 families settled downstream. The issue of the fissures in the walls came in the limelight after a delegation of Naltar residents informed reporters in Gilgit that some 70 families settled downstream were at risk of being swept away if the power plant’s reservoir, containing more than 1,300,000 cusecs of water, ruptures due to the pressure of water stored.
The water and power department had initially ruled out the possibility of an outburst and maintained that the walls of the reservoir were strong enough to sustain the pressure of water.
Executive Engineer Water and Power Hamid Hussain said that some leakage from the walls in winter was normal, since the joints contract in low temperature.
The 18-megawatt hydel power project built in 2008 during Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s government was completed at the cost of Rs400 million. According to sources, the company which designed the reservoir had guaranteed a lifespan of 40 years.
Currently, G-B is experiencing a 132-megawatt power shortfall. “The shortfall rises considerably in winters when consumption increases while production decreases,” said an official.
Prolonged power outage has made life miserable in the capital city, where people are surviving the bitter cold without adequate electricity or gas. Residents find it difficult to charge their mobiles, leading to a breakdown in communication when electricity is switched off for over 24 hours.
International Human Rights Commission Gilgit-Baltistan in a statement on Monday held the government responsible for prolonged power cuts.