The two tunnel boring machines (TBM) purchased at the cost of Rs8 billion for digging the tunnels of 969-MW Neelum Jhelum hydropower project (NJHP) cannot be recovered and will be dismantled and buried on the site, media sources have reported. The machines had been purchased by Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in 2013 to accelerate the work on the project.
According to earlier estimates, the deployment was to shorten the construction period time by about 18 months and the benefit was calculated to be Rs60 billion. The total cost of acquiring the machines was $140 million. Although the deployment was not part of the original plan, the Chinese contractors suggested TBMs to accelerate the work.
The purchase of TBMs significantly raised the cost of the project.TBMs were to become WAPDA’s property after the completion of the project. However, now it is expected that the TBMs will no longer be in a working condition after the completion of the project, and these will be dismantled and buried inside the tunnel. Official sources have stated that this is likely to cause a great loss to the national exchequer and the contractor should be made to bear the burden since the machinery had been used by the contractors and it was their duty to return them in a workable condition.
CEO of the NJHP Brigadier(r) Muhammad Zareen stated that it was an internationally recognized practice to bury TBMs machines upon completion of work.He further added that it would nearly cost Rs1.5 billion per TBM to bring it back into a workable condition, while the time required for bringing them out and cleaning them would be around seven months. This delay would mean more loss. Also, the TBMs were custom built for specific tunnels and could not be used in any other tunnel.