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Wapda faces resistance over plan to hire local consultants for dam construction

Wapda faces resistance over plan to hire local consultants for dam construction

LAHORE: The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) is facing resistance from the quarters concerned in the federal government over its plan to hire local consultants for supervising and the execution of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams’ projects, it has been learnt.

The opposition started from the relevant ministries after Wapda finally decided in principle to give the lead role to local consultants instead of international firms for 4,500MW Bhasha and 800MW Mohmand dams. International companies under the Wapda’s decision may only work with local consultants as associate partners and not as lead ones.

“Wapda’s decision has irked some forces having interests as they are trying to create doubts over the abilities of local engineers to handle such mammoth projects. But we will not change our decision, as we want to proceed towards self-reliance rather than the foreign one,” a senior Wapda official told Dawn on Friday on condition of anonymity.

“Following the decision, we have also stopped the entire process of inviting bids from international bidders in this regard,” he added.

Official accuses some quarters of trying to create doubts over ability of engineers to handle execution of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams projects

Under the plan, local companies will make joint ventures (JVs) or consortium as a lead role for monitoring and execution of the two dams’ construction. The Supreme Court of Pakistan desires the construction work on the country’s two mega projects to start as soon as possible.

Wapda wants local companies to take lead in supervising construction and execution of the dams by making JVs or consortiums. “In the JVs, Wapda preferably wants only local companies for providing consultancy services. However, international companies may also be part of such JVs, but not in lead role,” the official said.

Pakistan continues to rely mostly on foreign consultants and companies for the accomplishment of several hydropower projects. Though foreign companies’ lead role helped the country in accomplishing several projects, it didn’t build capacity of local engineers. Wapda sees giving lead role to local consultants as a major step toward self-reliance for technical capacity as well as tremendous socio-economic spin-offs.

The official said local consultants would also be liable to build capacity of as many as 700 engineers in performing various jobs of design of the dams, civil, mechanical, environment and other engineering works. Any project is completed with mutual coordination and skills of three segments — client (owner of the project), consultants (those who get the project executed by contractors under certain standards/parameters) and contractors (firms engaged in civil and other sorts of construction work directly). So consultants always play a commanding role in projects.

The official said since hiring local consultants for such projects never happened in the past, Wapda would do it by all means now. Local consultants will be selected through competitive bidding under the PPRA rules and other relevant laws.

However, the local consortium of consultants will continue to seek assistance and support of international consultants wherever required. “As the plan will also provide opportunities to a large number of local talented engineers, the quarters concerned must support this rather than resisting this. Please look at China that has now its own local consultants comprising over 3,000 engineers, as they succeeded in doing so during construction of China’s Three Gorges project. And to date, 3,000 Chinese engineers succeeded in building 22,000 dams in their country,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2018

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