SAHSOL Students Visit Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant
To access the environmental impact of the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant, the class of International Environmental Law and International Finance Law from the Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law (SAHSOL) at LUMS went to Azad Kashmir under the supervision of faculty members Professor Sikander Shah and Dr. Faiza Ismail. Dr. Shehla Waqar, Secretary Forest, Wildlife and Fisheries AJK Government, facilitated their field trip to the plant.
The Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant is part of a hydroelectric power scheme, designed to divert waters from the Neelum River to a power station on the Jhelum River. The Neelum river portion in Indian territory is known as the Kishan Ganga river and also houses a similar power plant of the same name.
The power plant is divided into three main parts C1, C2 and C3. C1 is the first stop and is the Nowsehri point. The water is accumulated and diverted from this point to the generation plant C3 through an underground tunnel. The tunnel is divided into two tunnels at C2. This is the main area where electricity is generated.
The environmental impact of the plant was clearly evident to the students on two fronts. Firstly, the huge tunnel which transforms into two underground tunnels at one point leaves the entire landscape of the river bed barren. This directly affects the biological, chemical and physical properties of the river and its surroundings.
Secondly, according to the agreement between the Government of Pakistan and Government of Azad Kashmir, the minimum flow has to be discharged in the Neelum river. However, the minimum discharge has been quite low to meet the water requirements of Muzaffarabad.
Even though the Neelum-Jhelum power plant has recently come into operation to meet the challenging water needs of the people of Azad Kashmir and despite feasibility studies being conducted to ensure that the environmental impact of the plant is minimum, it is still unclear to what extent the plant is going to change the ecology of the area which is a cause of concern.