The Pakistan government has signed a tripartite agreement with China for the construction of the 1,124 megawatt Kohala Hydropower Project worth at least $2.4 billion.
The signing ceremony of the agreement was held at the Prime Minister House on Thursday, witnessed by the Prime Minister Imran Khan, who will also be doing a ground breaking on Friday.
The other attendees included Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Chairman Lt. General (Retd.) Asim Saleem Bajwa and representatives of the Chinese company.
The Kohala Hydropower Project is by far the largest power sector investment in a single Independent Power Producer (IPP).
It is being built on the Jhehlum River in PoK as part of the CPEC and has been awarded to Kohala Hydropwer Company Ltd. (KHCL), a subsidiary of China’s Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC).
“It is a great step towards foreign investment” the Prime Minister said while addressing the signing ceremony.
“Pakistan has the potential to generate electricity from water and this project is the one way forward.”
Khan said that the project will provide jobs for the youth of PoK.
“The huge investment for Pakistan in Kohala Hydropower Project under CPEC is a very important development. We have to provide employment to the youth at this time, this project will give jobs to the youth from PoK,” he said.
However, the residents of PoK, who call it a blatant attempt to divert the Jhehlum water and deprive the people from water based resources and trigger changes in the climate that are already hurting families living along the Neelum River because of the Neelum Jehlum Power Plant, are protesting the very presence of the project.
“These projects are diverting our rivers from Kashmir and taking it straight to the edge at Kohala, from where Pakistan starts. This diversion of our river will have a serious affect on lives of thousands of families living along the river,” said a local activist from Muzaffarabad.
“Changes in the weather are already felt and witnessed for locals living along the Neelum river, as temperatures during summer have been going up. This is because of the Neelum Jehlum Power Plant, which has diverted a considerable amount of river water. Now this project will bring miseries to even more families along the Jhehlum river,” he added.
The activist, who requested to be kept anonymous, said that these projects benefit Pakistan, insisting that Kashmiris have not benefited as the electricity crisis is present all over PoK.
Talking about the claim of job creations for the youth, he said that many educated engineers worked in the Neelum Jehlum Power project, but on a daily wage basis, adding that job opportunities with salaries based on daily wages, do not help the youth in their career as it is for a limited period of time, doing no progressive development.